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MPA calls for more effective safeguards

Mineral rail depot

Association wants to see better protection of mineral resources, wharves, rail depots and added-value activities

THE Mineral Products Association (MPA) is calling for more effective safeguarding of mineral resources, wharves, rail depots and added-value activities. It says minerals are the biggest material flow in the UK economy and it is essential to safeguard them and their means of their supply, so that they can be supplied responsibly in years to come in a way which supports sustainable development.

However, according to the Association, evidence shows that safeguarding of mineral resources and related infrastructure, such as wharves and rail depots, is not being properly applied due to a lack of clear, strong and consistent planning policies, coupled with a lack of staff and skills in planning departments.

Ken Hobden, the MPA’s director of mineral planning, said: ‘Whatever your interpretation of the term ‘sustainable development’, I think it’s fair to say it embodies the common goal of not wasting anything and not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

‘In the context of mineral development, an effective system for preventing the needless sterilization of mineral resources and loss of essential infrastructure must surely be the very foundation of sustainable development.’

He continued: ‘Minerals are a finite resource and should not be wasted or lost; they are a resource for the future. But mineral safeguarding, and safeguarding of wharf and rail capacity, is all about the long term: it’s a tomorrow issue and so, sadly, it is one that is easy to brush aside for reasons of short-term political expediency.’

Safeguarding was one of the main topics at the May 2015 RTPI/MPA Mineral Planning Conference. During a panel-led discussion there was agreement that the safeguarding of mineral interests is not happening properly. A widespread lack of strong and clear plan policies and staff resources within planning authorities was agreed to be the main cause.

The attention of the European Commission has also been drawn to mineral safeguarding because of growing concern about the security of supply of minerals throughout the European Union. The MINATURA project has just started and one of its objectives is to assess the effectiveness of policy and mechanisms in member states in preventing minerals and associated infrastructure being unnecessarily sterilized by other development.

Mr Hobden continued: ‘In fact, protecting the viability of associated infrastructure, such as wharves and railheads, as well as value-added operations like readymix, precast and coating plants, is an immediate and more pressing problem.

‘In the rush to meet housing needs, the operation of these facilities is increasingly being compromised by inappropriate residential development in close proximity.’

While most other natural resources are covered by some form of statutory protection in the UK, the MPA is of the view that perhaps the only way that the protection of mineral resources will be given equal status to the other matters that are afforded ‘great weight’ by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), is to make mineral safeguarding a statutory duty as well.

It says all that would then be needed to ensure effective safeguarding happens is for mineral planning authorities to be adequately resourced to take on that statutory role.

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