Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence


Annex B

Summary of English Nature's response to the Quarry Products Association's (QPA) revised package of voluntary measures

1.  Environmental management processes

  The implementation of ISO14001 should improve the management of sites with a nature conservation interest. Whilst English Nature supports the use of environmental management systems, it has limited benefits in relation to nature conservation impacts resulting from land take and inappropriate restoration.

2.  Environmental impact assessment

  The guarantee of an Environmental Impact Assessment for all mineral applications and extensions, when requested by the mineral planning authority is a positive step. However, whilst it is unclear how many sites will benefit from this proposal it is evident that extra commitment from the industry will be minimal and will depend upon an initial request from the mineral planning authority. English Nature would therefore like to see a commitment from the industry to undertake an EIA for all new applications where a statutory body considers it necessary.

3.  Quarrying in environmentally sensitive areas

  Whilst the proposals have significant benefits for the National Parks, English Nature are disappointed that this commitment has not been expanded to include Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). English Nature would therefore like to have a commitment from the industry not to submit new applications or reactivate dormant permissions which will impact negatively upon SSSIs.

4.  Research into impacts on SSSIs

  English Nature welcome the commitment from the industry to undertake research into the impacts of mineral extraction by QPA members on Sites of Special Scientific Interest. This research will supplement the work currently being undertaken by English Nature. The research will give a clearer picture of the positive and negative impacts of mineral extraction on nature conservation interests.

  EN had originally requested a survey of all SSSI associated with mineral extraction, the results of which could be used to improve the management of sites. English Nature are disappointed that the research will be restricted to QPA members and that currently there is no further commitment to use this information to ensure that sites are being positively managed for their nature conservation interests.

  English Nature therefore recommend that the package is amended to secure an assessment of the implications of all active and dormant permissions on or affecting SSSIs (including European designations) and a commitment to ensure that steps will be taken to ensure that these sites will be positively managed for their nature conservation interest.

5.  Sustainable development indicators

  English Nature support the use of Sustainable Development indicators as a tool for monitoring environmental performance.

  The indicators could be used to record more usefully against "environmental" criteria and could be modified to include specific nature conservation indicators, which link to national and local biodiversity targets. There should also be a specific target relating to the proportion of primary aggregate extracted in relation to secondary/recycled materials.

  English Nature therefore recommend that the package is amended to include clear indicators relating the impacts of mineral extraction on SSSIs. It is suggested that the following indicator and associated targets are added to the proposals.
—  Indicator All SSSIs to be managed positively for their nature conservation interest.
—  TargetComplete research project into the impacts of mineral extraction on SSSIs by 2001.
—  TargetEnsure that 95 per cent of SSSIs are positively managed for their nature conservation interest by 2004.
—  Interim target80 per cent of SSSIs positively managed for their nature conservation interest by 2002.


6.  Sustainable development foundation

  During consultation with the QPA earlier this year, English Nature suggested that at least £10 million of the Foundation's budget be used to support BAP and Earth heritage conservation. In the light of the poor commitment shown to SSSIs elsewhere in the package, English Nature therefore believe that the Foundation should contribute a higher percentage, at least 20 per cent, to BAP and Earth heritage conservation and that the amount should be decoupled from the proportion assigned for education.

7.  Way forward

  Before we are able to endorse the package, English Nature suggest that the following changes should be made to improve the conservation of our wildlife and natural features.

    —  A commitment to make no new applications for extraction or the reactivation of dormant permissions within or affecting existing SSSIs.

    —  An assessment of the implications of all active and dormant permissions on or affecting SSSIs. A commitment needs to be added to ensure that these sites will be positively managed for their nature conservation interest.

    —  All sites and operators should aim to make a measurable contribution to BAP targets and the production of corporate, and site specific if appropriate, BAP and Earth heritage strategies.

    —  A specified component of the Sustainable Foundation, at least 20 per cent, which will be used to support BAP and wider nature conservation initiatives.

    —  Performance indicators for nature conservation which are published and audited to measure the extent and rate of achievement of commitments.

September 1999


 
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