MPA Calls for Calm and Constructive Reflection over Proposed New Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
- 01 November 2011
- Company & Industry News
Nigel Jackson, Chief Executive MPA, has called for a calmer and more constructive reflection on the draft National Planning Policy Framework which is currently out for consultation.
Jackson said "Much of the public debate over the NPPF consultation has been characterised by misleading headline-grabbing claims which in many cases bear little relation to the detailed proposals or their likely implications. Claims that the proposals will lead to a ‘boom in construction’ are likely to be as exaggerated as those suggesting that the ‘countryside will be concreted over’.”
Jackson points out that there is no change to the law proposed, there will continue to be a plan-led system, statutory protection for designated places and landscapes, as well as a raft of EU Directives such as the Habitats and Birds Directive.
He added “In practice the presumption in favour of sustainable development is nothing new, there has always been a presumption in favour of development in particular circumstances. However, it is clear that the current definition needs further work to ensure it has greater clarity and its role and application on a day to day basis does not give rise to endless legal debate. The ‘Localism Bill’ once enacted will give greater influence to local communities, but the jury is still very much out on whether this will constrain or encourage growth.”
MPA believes that with less than 25% of mineral plans currently designated as sound there needs to be some ‘push’ in the system to bring greater certainty to developers, planning authorities and local communities. The presumption should provide much needed encouragement to planning authorities to speed up preparation and adoption of up-to-date development plans. For aggregates, retention of the Managed Aggregate Supply System (MASS) is key if the construction and manufacturing industries are to continue to receive a steady and adequate supply of aggregates during the recovery. There is also a need to retain some key aspects of previous technical guidance to avoid every local authority re-inventing old wheels at great and unnecessary cost to all concerned.
“The proposed NPPF is not about reducing environmental standards”, said Jackson, “it is about achieving a more reasonable and better balance between the social, environmental and economic aspects of sustainable development. Greater weight in the economic pan does not mean less weight in the environmental pan. Balancing the issues is what the planning system has always tried to do. Any system which helps reduce the ever growing amount of often unnecessary information requested to support a planning application, and which planning authorities and statutory consultees are often ill-resourced to evaluate, will be a step in the right direction.”
MPA retains significant concerns about the potential implications of the NPPF for the minerals industry - notably the need to ensure that there is a strategic perspective which informs and helps local planning decisions, whilst ensuring national and regional needs are met. Like it or not interregional flows of aggregates by road, rail and river are critical and that means that those counties that supply others beyond their boundaries and in different regions will have an even tougher task on their hands than today. The big question will be - ‘What happens if a more bottom up approach fails to deliver?’.
Jackson explained “The way to deal with such concerns is to engage with stakeholders and Government in a reasonable and constructive manner. The draft NPPF may not be perfect, but it deserves to be considered honestly and seriously. We continue to support the ambition of a pro-growth planning system, but one which balances this with appropriate protection of the environment and social issues and ensures that essential minerals that underpin the economy continue to be supplied at the right rate for the short, medium and long term.”