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Call for consistency on NPPF decision-making

National Planning Policy Framework

National Planning Policy Framework may already be failing to deliver certainty for mineral extraction, says MPA

ACCORDING to the Mineral Products Association (MPA), there are no early signs that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is doing anything to help deliver the up-to-date plans that are a must in a ‘plan-led system’.

The MPA says inconsistent decision-making is already occurring as planners and others struggle to interpret and implement the contents of the new document. And with less than 50% plan coverage at Core Strategy level and under 20% with complete minerals development frameworks, the situation is becoming critical.


Great uncertainty has been created for mineral developers, which is undermining investment for the medium and long term, says the Association.

Nigel Jackson, chief executive of the MPA, said: ‘Key components in the investment decision-making process are the need for clarity and certainty, and, in spite of the undoubted and well-intentioned aims of the NPPF, the weight being given to it and interpretation and implementation is proving variable.

‘The NPPF needs to be given proper weight; its status as policy needs to be established in practice; and it must be interpreted correctly and consistently by all parties in the planning process if things are to work properly.’

With regard to aggregate extraction, the NPPF introduces ‘Local Aggregate Assessments’ (LAAs), where each mineral planning authority is expected to prepare an assessment of the demand for and supply of aggregates.

LAAs are in their infancy, but the MPA says very inconsistent approaches are already evident across England and Wales and the thrust is erring towards provision of less sites for future mineral extraction.

It adds that, with replenishment rates for aggregates continuing to languish at around 60%, it is only the cumulative reduction in demand in recent years which is masking the underlying potential shortfall of future supply in some areas.

MPA members are saying that the last thing that they want to do at the moment is engage with the planning system and submit applications. They are considered too expensive and too risky, with costs escalating disproportionately as cash-strapped planning authorities and other regulators seek to recover an ever-increasing proportion of the cost of their services from operators.

‘The current cumulative burden of continually changing regulation and a planning system in transition undermines the will of operators to invest,’ said Nigel Jackson.

‘Infrastructure investment means having the raw materials available to supply housing, road, rail, energy and other key infrastructure projects. While reserves may be adequate now, in a long-term strategic sector such as ours, where new reserves can take five to 15 years to secure planning and environmental permits, the planned upturn in demand in 2014 and beyond means action is needed soon to build the confidence to invest in future supply.’

The MPA says there is a need to re-establish the primacy of the planning system over the environmental permitting system, which should enable and support democratically determined land-use decisions.

‘We believe that action must be taken now to speed-up the replacement of outdated development plans and to get a grip on unduly ‘localist’ interpretations of national policy in order to make the NPPF work. Once action is taken to instil confidence on all sides in the planning system, we believe it can deliver,’ said Mr Jackson.

‘MPA has supported and continues to support attempts to untangle the complex web of regulatory guidance and legislation which creates uncertainty. The NPPF is well balanced for all parties, but consistent recognition of its weight and consistent implementation is vital if it is to play its critical role in the growth of the economy.’


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