Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence from the British Aggregates Association

Please find enclosed our comments and evidence on the NPPF and the specific questions posed by the Committee.

We would request that this information is also made available for the consideration of the Environmental Audit Committee.

Summary and Brief General Assessment of the Fitness for Purpose of the draft Framework as a Whole

We strongly support the principle of reverting back to a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which is absolutely vital to ensure national growth and encourage investment in the nation.

We support the reduced size of the policy statement and that minerals has its own section. However we are not sure whether this alone will actually speed-up the planning process without more use of “will” than “should” and with potential redress and penalties for default.

From a business perspective there is too much emphasis on “housing” rather than on the general business development which will drive growth and future prosperity.

From a minerals perspective it is essential that a proper balance between economic, social and environment factors in sustainable development is ensured. The current draft we believe is still slanted towards environmental factors. Minerals can only be extracted where they occur and this needs clearly stating in the introductory statements. This becomes more critical for the rarer industrial minerals which predominantly are located in National Parks and AONBs and a clear statement of national need from government is long overdue and much needed.

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?

We welcome the recognition in para 100 that minerals are essential to support sustainable economic growth. This needs to be stated “up front” in the Introduction sections para 1–8 to emphasise the importance of a steady and adequate supply of minerals as the building blocks for all other sustainable development. This should also recognise the special nature of mineral development in that minerals can only be extracted where they occur. The definition of sustainable mineral development must recognise this key locational criterion.

We are concerned about the loss of current important technical guidance given for example in MPS2 in relation to dust and noise. Clear guidance of sufficient weight is an essential tool in securing new permissions. We are concerned that para 102 bullet 7 (102.7) appears to be proposing, for example, that local authorities develop their own set of noise limits which could lead to major inconsistencies across the country.

Minerals are excluded from neighbourhood plans in the Localism Bill and this requires stating more clearly in the NPPF, perhaps in para 6 of the Introduction.

Is the definition of “sustainable development” contained in the document appropriate; and is the presumption in favour of sustainable development a balanced and workable approach?

This needs some clarification to ensure the NPPF is not unnecessarily preventing development or gold-plating EU Directives. Specifically para 19 and 170 imply there are no-go areas for development under the Habitats Directive which is not a correct interpretation of the Directive.

Specifically for minerals we believe the NPPF should explicitly state that development that meets the Government’s objective for minerals as set out in para 100 is sustainable. Unlike other forms of development, minerals can only be extracted where they occur in economically viable quantities and that sustainable minerals development means balancing the need for the minerals to support economic growth against the impact of working them where they occur.

Are the “core planning principles” clearly and appropriately expressed?

Yes, except bullet 5 of para 19 (19.5) which is somewhat confusing. While we recognise the need to seek to protect and enhance environmental and heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance we do believe allocations of land for development should not only prefer land of lesser environmental value but also land of lesser heritage value. This is particularly important in respect of minerals development because unlike other forms of development minerals can only be worked where they occur.

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?

There is an apparent lack of coordination and communication between government departments, and this is possibly due in part to different departmental priorities and lack of crystral clear central guidance. Eg since Planning and Environment were split between CLG and DEFRA some years ago there are policy conflicts over developments in National Parks and AONBs. There have been similar problems between the Environment Agency and Planning responsibilities (and in some cases HSE) over the “new” Permits (EPP) and the EU Mining Waste Directive leading to duplication and additional cost and regulatory burden on business.

Central Government should he aware of these conflicts and we need clear statements to avoid. Eg a clear and unequivocal statement of “National Need” for all minerals is long overdue and would assist. This would also be in line with the EU Raw Materials Initiative.

Minerals do not currently have a central sponsor. Indeed much of the sector has little or no support and overall is not coordinated; except through an industry initiative “UK Minerals Forum” with hill stakeholder participation.

Does the NPPF, together with the “duty to cooperate”, provide a sufficient basis for larger-than-local strategic planning?

There is a need to ensure that this is more widely stated and clearly interpreted to cover where mineral is extracted and where it is used which may be in a different part of England or indeed elsewhere in the UK.

September 2011

Prepared 20th December 2011