With a total contribution of £217 billion per year, minerals extraction plays a critical role in the UK economy. However the UK has experienced a steady decline in minerals production, coupled with rising exports and a widening trade deficit. In addition, local authority resources are being stretched and there is a shortage of minerals planners. As construction picks up around the country, action must be taken to maintain a sustainable supply of minerals.
Jointly hosted by the RTPI and the Minerals Products Association (MPA), the Minerals and Planning Conference at the University of Nottingham on Wednesday 20 May was co chaired by Peter Geraghty, RTPI International Chair (pictured seated with DCLG's Nick Tennant) and David Highley, British Geological Survey.
Peter Geraghty, RTPI International Chair, said:
“I was delighted to chair a session of the latest Minerals Planning Conference. The conference which has become an important date in our chartered professional development events calendar is part of our on-going relationship with the Mineral Products Association. The fact that the conference was packed out is testament to the vital contribution which minerals make to the UK economy. Our expert speakers made the convincing case for a national minerals strategy, one capable of supporting infrastructure planning, resolving conflicts over land use, engaging local communities, and safeguarding production sites. One clear theme from the day was the importance of Local Planning Authorities and Mineral Planning Authorities working together in preparing development plans, in order to ensure the most sustainable use of land over the long-term. Another theme to emerge was the importance of having adequately resourced planning departments with properly qualified planners to work in this specialised field.”
A speaker from Aggregate Industries discussed the impact of the absence of a national minerals strategy, arguing that decision-making in other sectors does not sufficiently consider mineral production. For example 25% of current extraction is from sites within National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) for which planning permissions expire in 2042. Following this a choice will need to be made whether to renew existing permissions, open new mines in different area or increasingly rely on imports. These decisions will have a major impact on transport infrastructure, skills and the economy.
"Our expert speakers made the convincing case for a national minerals strategy, one capable of supporting infrastructure planning, resolving conflicts over land use, engaging local communities, and safeguarding production sites. One clear theme from the day was the importance of Local Planning Authorities and Mineral Planning Authorities working together in preparing development plans, in order to ensure the most sustainable use of land over the long-term."
A UK Minerals Strategy could prioritise the sustainable use of national resources and increase security of supply, along with a planning and regulatory regime which:
- Reinstates the primacy of planning permission as the principle form of development consent for mineral extraction
- Supports the delivery of minerals local plans through safeguarding and development criteria
Ken Hobden, Director of Planning at the MPA argued that the lack of national long-term economic planning has made it easy for housing, and other interests, to override mineral interests, and that minerals were not given sufficient weight in the planning process.
- Statutory minerals safeguarding (the same as for nature, heritage etc.) as only 17 mineral planning authorities in England have proper safeguarding in place
- Councils being required to show safeguarding areas on local plans
- Developers financing minerals surveys when trying to develop in safeguarded areas
- Councils increasing their mineral expertise as they are currently too focused on surface development
The conference concluded with a legal update from No. 5 Chambers who noted a recent High Court ruling that the National Planning Policy Framework definition of mineral extraction is not confined to production, but includes exploration, appraisal and production. Mineral production in the green belt is also ‘not inappropriate’ as long as the openness of the green belt is preserved and it does not conflict with the purposes of including land in green belt. In addition, the Duty to Cooperate should include a requirement to produce effective and deliverable policies on strategic cross-boundary matters which include minerals. A failure to provide evidence of this can lead to plans failing preliminary examination.
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