Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence from the British Ceramic Confederation

This response is submitted by the British Ceramic Confederation, the lead body for the UK ceramic manufacturing industry, representing the common and collective interests of all sectors of the industry. Its 100 member companies cover the full spectrum of ceramic manufacture, including the supply of materials, and comprise over 90% of the industry’s production capacity. Companies within the heavy clay sector of the industry, who extract their own minerals, manufacture bricks, clay roof tiles, clay pipes and refractories.

We welcome and support the overall intention, approach and content of the draft Framework. However there are a small number of serious shortcomings in the draft which must be addressed if it and the parts of the Localism Bill dealing with planning are to achieve the objective of facilitating economic growth through sustainable development. In particular if the matter relating to landbank provision for brick clay that we detail below is not corrected, the effect will be the opposite of that intended.

We detail below our response to the specific questions on the draft NPPF on which the Committee has invited comment. In summary our view is that:

The sections in the draft on neighbourhood planning should be recast and expanded to clarify the mechanism for their production and permitted scope.

The NPPF should make clear that neighbourhood plans must not under any circumstances override county matters such as minerals planning.

Generic guidance on technical matters relating to minerals extraction should be retained to complement the NPPF.

The sections dealing with the Birds and Habitats Directives should be recast to accommodate flexibility to allow mitigation measures.

There is no evidence to support or justification for the proposed changed policy on landbanks for brick clay. The existing policy should be retained.

We have confined our comments to major issues of significance to the well-being of our industry, and to avoid repetition have presented them as responses to single questions posed by the Committee even though several of the questions are pertinent to each issue.

Does the NPPF give sufficient guidance to local planning authorities, the Planning Inspectorate and others, including investors and developers, while at the same time giving local communities sufficient power over planning decisions?

Neighbourhood Plans

Our first response to this question deals with neighbourhood plans, which we understand are an intended key element in the localism agenda. This is dealt with in paragraphs 49 to 52 inclusive of the draft NPPF.

We do not think that the NPPF provides clarity on the mechanism for production and approval of neighbourhood plans, their permitted scope or the relationship between them and other plans.

The NPPF should state quite clearly which bodies are permitted to produce neighbourhood plans, how these bodies may be constituted, how the geographical limits of such plans are defined and other such detail. Mention is made in paragraph 49 of parishes and neighbourhood forums. These concepts must be adequately explained and defined. Whereas all such matters may be prescribed in the Localism Bill / Act, we do not consider it satisfactory that they are omitted from the NPPF which will be the principal document advising planners and developers.

Of even greater importance is the need for clarity on the relationship between neighbourhood plans and other plans. Paragraphs 50, 51 and 52 are both confusing and contradictory in that respect. The explanation of “general conformity” in the Glossary is not satisfactory. It does not provide sufficient clarity for reconciliation of the contradictory statements that neighbourhood plans must be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan (paragraph 50) and that policies in a neighbourhood plan take precedence over existing policies in the Local Plan where they are in conflict (paragraph 51).

In our view there must be consistency between plans, and a neighbourhood plan should not contradict or override the Local Plan in any circumstances, but should complement it.

Of equal importance is the need to define in the NPPF the permitted scope of neighbourhood plans. The Localism Bill makes clear that county matters are outside the scope of neighbourhood planning (Localism Bill, Clause 98 and Schedule 9). The NPPF should make equally clear that a neighbourhood plan cannot override or interfere in any way with county matters covered by the Local Plan. In particular minerals planning, minerals extraction and minerals safeguarding are county matters. Not only can a neighbourhood plan not embrace such matters, it must not be able to interfere with them in any way. The responsibility of planning authorities for planning for the sustainable use of minerals outlined in paragraphs 100 to 106 must not be compromised. The consequence would be the sterilisation of valuable minerals reserves and resources.


Paragraph 102 bullets 6 and 7, and paragraph 103 bullet 3, give brief mention to measures relating to health, the environment, noise, dust and other impacts that planning authorities should adopt in determining minerals planning applications. The explanatory document Draft National Planning Policy Framework: Consultation issued with the draft NPPF makes clear that most existing policy documents will be cancelled when the NPPF is introduced. These documents include MPS2: Controlling and Mitigating the Environmental Effects of Minerals Extraction in England, and MPG5: Stability in surface mineral workings and tips amongst others of a similar nature.

We do not think the content of the NPPF provides sufficient direction to planning authorities in these areas to ensure that measures adopted are adequate, reasonable and consistent between applications. Whereas we accept the need to reduce bureaucracy and unnecessary complication in planning policy and guidance, these are important technical matters in which planners are likely to have limited knowledge and expertise. The relevant guidance should be updated, not abolished, and cross-reference made to it in the NPPF.

Is the relationship between the NPPF and other national statements of planning-related policy sufficiently clear? Does the NPPF serve to integrate national planning policy across Government Departments?

The NPPF does not make clear the relationship between planning policy and policy on certain environmental matters which have an impact on planning decisions.

Paragraph 16 states that development likely to have a significant effect on sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives would not be sustainable under the terms of the presumption in favour of sustainable development. Although this statement may be tempered to some degree by the wording of paragraphs 35 and 36 regarding the need to respect the progress and statutory requirements of different assessment processes, and proportionality, it remains the headline statement to which more attention is likely to be paid.

Existing procedures to ensure compliance with the Birds and Habitats Directives and related requirements allow for flexibility where mitigation measures such as the creation or dedication of alternative environments and the translocation of species can be used to avoid net adverse environmental impact of development. If the NPPF is to include reference to the Directives, it should embrace these accepted principles.

Are the policies contained in the NPPF sufficiently evidence based?

The answer we give to this question is of vital importance to the future sustainability of the heavy clay products manufacturing industry in the UK which cannot be understated.

Paragraph 101 bullet 3 contains a radical change in policy regarding landbanks for brick clay which is totally unacceptable to the industry. Moreover the justification for the change provided in the Impact Assessment pages 45 to 47 is fundamentally flawed.

Existing policy contained in MPS1 Annex 2 requires planning authorities to provide a stock of permitted reserves sufficient to provide for 25 years of production at each manufacturing plant. The rationale for this policy is contained in the detailed research undertaken for the then DTLR by the British Geological Survey published in 2001, Brick Clay: Issues for Planning. The specific purpose of this research was to inform policy on planning for brick clay. Two extracts from the report serve to encapsulate its basic conclusions:

“Delivering sustainable security of supply requires development plans with a long-term perspective. This period should be at least 25 years, delivered through a landbank comprising permitted reserves and/or allocations in development plans. Provision should be subject to regular short-term review to enable adjustments to be made as required.”

“Guidance should stress the importance of ensuring that brick clay issues (including fireclay) are properly explored in up to date development plans. It should emphasise the need for an integrated long-term approach (at least 25 years) to planning a sustainable security of supply of brick clays in a landbank. It should give guidance on the objectives to be resolved over that time and stress the need for flexibility of the long-term approach and confirm the necessity of regular short-term adjustments (no longer than five years) to development plan policy to meet emerging circumstances.”

The NPPF Impact Assessment states that the proposed landbank requirements for scarcer minerals—which include clay—”better reflects modern working methods (to extract) and the more efficient use of raw materials which minimises the need for primary extraction”. Whereas this statement may be pertinent to other minerals, it cannot be applied to clay. Working methods have not changed in any way that affects the volume of clay extracted or the rate of extraction. The rate and volume of extraction are determined not by the methods of extraction but by the capacity of the production plant served and demand for the manufactured product.

It is important to understand the reason why a dedicated and secure supply of clay for 25 years production is required for any brick, clay tile or clay pipe manufacturing plant. The Impact Assessment recognises that landbanks are of particular importance for some minerals because they represent a secure supply of feedstock to justify the capital investment in major manufacturing facilities. However three further points should be acknowledged. First the capital investment is ongoing throughout the life of the plant to support maintenance and upgrade not least to meet environmental performance standards. Secondly clay is not a commodity the source of which can be readily changed. The plant specification is determined by the nature of the clay available and extraction in close proximity to the plant is necessary to minimise environmental impact and cost. Finally the scale of capital expenditure is considerable and is normally depreciated over a 25 year period.

The NPPF states that “larger landbanks may be justified in specific circumstances, such as the need to ensure the viability of proposed new investment”. This wording in insufficient to provide the security the industry requires. Provision for 25 years supply is needed at all times as explained above.

The consequence of failure to correct this aberration in the NPPF will be that new investment in clay product manufacturing will not be brought forward. The largest part of the brick, clay roof tile and clay pipe manufacturing industry is owned and controlled at European level. The long term security of supply of the basic raw material is a key consideration in corporate investment strategy and decisions. In its absence the location of new plant outside the UK where conditions are more favourable will become increasingly likely.

We are not aware of any evidence to support the policy change proposed. All existing evidence supports retention of the policy contained in MPS1 Annex 2. Moreover its replacement will jeopardise future investment and employment whilst providing no advantage in planning or environmental terms.

8 September 2011

Prepared 20th December 2011