Monday, 12 January 2015

When will AI actually talk to the people of Ottery St Mary?

Last year, Aggregate Industries said it was submitting a planning application to quarry Straitgate "in due course", but, as yet, no views have been canvased by the company from the local community.

AI may not have finalised its plans, but that is exactly the time to seek local input. In Northumberland, for example, Banks Mining are "inviting local people to come to a series of community workshops to meet the Highthorn project team and help shape the plans for the project" in advance of submitting its application. Even for the extension to Bardon Hill Quarry, AI claimed:
At Bardon Hill in Leicestershire we successfully gained planning permission to extend the life of the site in May 2011. The application was submitted some 18 months before – and community consultation began two years before that. We made presentations to different organisations with an interest in or responsibility to the area, took over 70 people on quarry tours, held three series of public exhibitions which were attended by 310 people, sent information and updates on the proposal to over 6,000 homes and met with 42 local residents in their own homes. Feedback from this exercise was sought to influence the details of the proposals and to accommodate expressed views wherever possible. Over 50 direct responses were been [sic] recorded with many of the suggestions being included in the final application. Through local engagement we have committed to a number of projects designed to enhance the lives of the people living within this community.
AI has done nothing so far to seek local views which might influence the details of any Straitgate proposal. Pre-application consultation with local communities is not just best practice, it's common decency. It's also what the NPPF expects:
188. Early engagement has significant potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning application system for all parties. Good quality pre-application discussion enables better coordination between public and private resources and improved outcomes for the community. 
189. Local planning authorities have a key role to play in encouraging other parties to take maximum advantage of the pre-application stage. They cannot require that a developer engages with them before submitting a planning application, but they should encourage take-up of any pre-application services they do offer. They should also, where they think this would be beneficial, encourage any applicants who are not already required to do so by law to engage with the local community before submitting their applications.