MPA responds to fresh call for mineral planning restrictions

The Mineral Products Association has responded to a Ten-Minute Rule Bill proposed in the House of Commons on Wednesday 1st December that seeks to impose additional rules on new quarries.

The Bill would introduce further regulations on mineral extraction, including a presumption against planning permission for sites close to settlements; additional measures for health and environmental risks to be assessed as part of the planning process; and measures to tackle issues around using former quarries for waste disposal.

Ten Minute Rule Bills are a type of Private Members' Bill whereby MPs can make a case for a new Bill in a Commons speech lasting up to ten minutes. They very rarely become law.

In its response, the MPA says there are ample checks and balances in the current system, highlighting that national policy, supported by existing legislation and regulations, already requires environmental and health assessments as part of mineral planning and environmental permitting processes. Proposals for any new mineral extraction undergo thorough environmental assessments which including any potential for health issues.

Opening a new quarry typically takes ten to fifteen years, starting with a Minerals Local Plan developed by the local authority to identify potential areas for quarrying, followed by a planning application that determines the suitability and acceptability of each site. Alongside the planning process, operators are also required to comply with substantial environmental regulation which requires a number of permits to be secured to allow operations to take place.

The MPA says the call for new rules made in Wednesday’s Ten Minute Rule Bill also needs to be seen in the context of the Government’s ambitions on housing and infrastructure. New renewable and nuclear energy capacity, road and railway infrastructure, water and waste infrastructure and, of course, new homes all rely on a steady and adequate supply of mineral products, as do diverse industries from steel and glass to agriculture and sports, and water purification to air pollution control.

National planning policy states that it is essential to have a sufficient supply of minerals to provide the infrastructure, buildings, energy and goods that the country needs and the Government acknowledges that minerals are a finite natural resource that can only be worked where they are found in the ground.

Yet MPA data shows that Britain’s mineral replenishment rates from new planning consents has fallen further and further behind mineral consumption rates. Between 2008 and 2019 only 75% of crushed rock permitted reserves were replenished and just 63% of sand and gravel reserves. This is unsustainable in the long run and the MPA has reiterated that the availability and supply of essential minerals that underpin the British economy must not be simply assumed.

Robert McIlveen, Director of Public Affairs at MPA, said: “Mineral developments are already, and quite rightly, subject to stringent controls and conditions regulated by the local Planning Authority, the Environment Agency, Environmental Health officials and Health & Safety Executive. Through these measures any potential environmental and health concerns are addressed in the management and control of quarry activities.

“The mineral products industry needs efficient and effective planning and permitting processes that enable the right quarries to be opened in the right places. This helps to ensure the country has the local and sustainably sourced materials it needs for infrastructure, housing and manufacturing, while at the same time taking account of environmental issues and the expectations of local communities.”

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