Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies: a planning vacuum? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

Written evidence from Staffordshire County Council (ARSS 92)


This submission relates to the consideration of the Inquiry relating to ensuring appropriate co-operation between local planning authorities on matters relating to waste management and minerals development formerly covered by regional spatial strategies.

It is acknowledged that there is a need for local co-operation to plan appropriately for the provision of minerals particularly those minerals essential to construction as well the provision of facilities to manage waste.

Local groups should be formed to address issues of cross border movements of minerals and waste to assist local planning authorities in determining appropriate levels of provision and where that provision is appropriate.

Local groups should involve industry and environmental groups and the work of the groups should be undertaken so that it serves to inform and advise local authorities and their communities on strategic matters for minerals and waste development.


1.1  Staffordshire is one of the significant mineral producing areas in England with 59 sites with permitted reserves. Quarries in Staffordshire produced 10% of English land won sand & gravel in 2007 and 9% of English clay used for brick, tile & pipe manufacture.

1.2  It is estimated that 4.2 million tonnes of controlled waste is produced in Staffordshire and there are approximately 250 waste management facilities in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent combined. Through the legacy of quarrying, Staffordshire has significant landfill capacity but new facilities are being developed to ensure that more waste is managed as a resource rather than sent to landfill for disposal.

1.3  Mineral resources produced in Staffordshire are part of an essential supply of raw materials to communities outside the area as well as within the county and similarly, waste facilities in Staffordshire manage wastes produced in areas outside the county.

1.4  The Town & Country planning system provides the context within which some very difficult decisions have to be made relating quarry and waste management development. Some local communities benefit greatly from the outcome of those decisions but others do not. None of these essential developments are a welcome neighbour.

1.5  The Regional Spatial Strategy provided targets for the provision of aggregate minerals used for construction and the management/disposal of waste. These targets were used to determine adequate provision.

1.6  The "Open Source" Planning Green Paper refers to repatriating the determination of the amounts of minerals required back to Minerals and Waste Planning Authorities, subject to national environmental standards to ensure that each authority makes its provision in a fair and sustainable way. The Paper does make an exception, however, for nationally strategic deposits of minerals where responsibility for determining amounts would rest with the Secretary of State. What constitutes such a deposit and on what basis the Secretary of State would determine their provision remains to be clarified. Furthermore, the extent to which contributions to an adequate and steady supply of minerals can be made by imports from Europe and elsewhere including marine resources needs to be assessed.


2.1  In Staffordshire, it is acknowledged that there is a need for Minerals and Waste Planning Authorities to work together where there are cross border movements of minerals and waste involving the needs of one area having to be met by its neighbours. It cannot at present be seen how this will happen without some form of targets and a strategic overview of provision will be necessary but it is considered that this should be undertaken at a local level. The aim of local co-operation should be to ensure an appropriate balance between the real needs of communities for mineral resources and management of their waste and the effects on communities living alongside quarries, mines or waste facilities.

2.2  There are a number of existing joint working examples and they are as follows:

(a)  Lead authorities providing services to others as in Greater Manchester;

(b)  Sub regional arrangements as in the West Midlands eg Joint working between the Black Country Local Planning Authorities and joint working on waste planning between Staffordshire County and Stoke-on-Trent City Councils;

(c)  Arrangements funded centrally by CLG as in the case of the Aggregates Working Parties (AWPs); and

(d)  Arrangements funded locally by partners working at the regional level such as the Technical Advisory Body for Waste (TABs).

2.3  None of the above examples are fully representative of all the stakeholders likely to be involved in determining future provision. The bodies most closely aligned with stakeholder involvement are the AWPs and TABs who both have industry and government representatives and some environmental interests represented. AWPs have been in operation since the 1970s and TABs since the late 1990s. However, these bodies: (a) were, as their names suggest, advisory technical bodies with no executive powers, policy making responsibilities or political representation, which (b) reported to regional decision-making bodies. In Wales, however, the two AWPs with a wider stakeholder base are also policy making bodies.

2.4  The AWP/TAB model involving Mineral and Waste Planning Authorities, industry and environmental bodies should be used as a basis for local co-operation. Local groups could either:

(1)  Provide minerals and waste technical advice and data sharing; or

(2)  In addition to (1), provide policy advice and a forum for sharing best practice

2.5  Local co-operation groups could evolve to address minerals and waste issues separately as the membership of each group might need to be different according to the issues that are relevant to the local authority areas.

2.6  Without decision making responsibilities, local groups would need to be report back to their constituent planning authorities and consideration would need to be given to mechanisms for dispute resolution, on the basis that they would be dependent upon a number of bodies to implement any policy recommendations. It is anticipated that groups would work together to:

Assist in providing local forecasts of requirements for minerals and waste management provision based on technical work arising from the Local Enterprise Partnerships;

Agree the basis of monitoring matters such as the consumption and production of aggregates and the provision of waste management capacity;

To identify options for mineral working and waste management that could assist individual authorities in addressing issues within their areas;

To encourage best practice in the prudent use of resources in a way that contributes to a low carbon economy; and

Provide a forum for liaison with other similar groups.

2.7  Based on experience in Staffordshire, a key aim for any joint working partnership or local co-operation group would be to operate openly in bringing together the concerns of communities and businesses in the area that the group would serve. There may also be potential opportunities to work alongside Local Enterprise Partnerships.

2.8  An essential requirement for the effectiveness of these local groups would be the participation of industry, particularly in terms of providing information about the operation of existing sites or facilities. Whilst respecting the needs for commercial confidentiality, it would be an aim for the groups to improve the availability and presentation of information for local strategic decision making.

2.9  In the absence of regional targets, house-building is to be incentivised by financial payments to the local authority. Given that minerals and waste developments are at least equally controversial in their own ways, proposals should be given to possible means of incentivising their development. Moreover, "Open Source Planning" recognises that areas which consume minerals may need to make their own arrangements for future supplies with producing areas although it does not define how this will work in practice. Clearly, those areas where production is taking place will experience disproportionate amounts of environmental harm to those areas receiving supplies for future development needs. If the receiving areas were able to collect funds from development using minerals they could hold it in a fund which producing areas could draw down to pay for compensatory works in areas affected by mineral extraction. Alternatively, revenues raised from the Aggregates Levy could be focussed more directly on those communities affected by aggregate mineral operations.

September 2010

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