MPA urges government to ‘make the link’
Association warns that proposed changes to the NPPF will further weaken the mineral planning system
THE proposed draft revision of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will further weaken the mineral planning system and further threaten the replenishment of aggregate and other mineral reserves which represent the largest material supply in the economy and are essential for the delivery of house building and infrastructure, says the Mineral Products Association (MPA).
The MPA’s own figures show that the 10-year average replenishment figure for sand and gravel reserves is only 60%, indicating that sales continue to outstrip the amount of new reserves permitted. This is against the context of more than 3 billion tonnes of construction aggregates being required to service national demand to 2030 and beyond.
Overall, the proposed changes to the NPPF reverse the long-held recognition that minerals, and in particular aggregates, are ‘essential’, which has been the central tenet of the Managed Aggregate Supply System (MASS) since the Verney Royal Commission introduced the process in 1975.
According to the MPA, modifications to the policies on landbanks and stocks of permitted reserves threaten the future adequate provision of key mineral products, including crushed rock, cement, lime and industrial sands, all of which are critical to construction and manufacturing.
The Association says it is particularly disappointing that, notwithstanding the vigorous efforts of the mineral products industry to engage, and the essential role minerals play in supporting the delivery of government housing and infrastructure ambitions, these concerns are not reflected in the draft revisions to the NPPF.
It adds that the changes now being proposed will considerably weaken policy supporting minerals, whereas, in contrast, the weight given to environmental designations has been strengthened, with no transparent evidence provided to justify the changes.
According to the Association, whilst the current NPPF responded to the need for more ‘localism’, this has not proved to be effective when it comes to ensuring an adequate and steady supply of aggregates and industrial minerals. Supplies are becoming increasingly strained, yet government continually fails to prioritize the sustainability or security of supply.
Whilst virtually all parts of government talk a good game on the need for more housing and infrastructure, virtually none ‘make the link’ to the need for a resilient supply chain of materials, says the MPA. It adds that the industry has tried repeatedly to expose the short-sighted approach that is being taken and whilst some in Government do grasp the issue, it is never held long enough for meaningful change to happen.
MPA chief executive Nigel Jackson (pictured) said: ‘These latest proposals run the risk of dismantling a system which has served the nation’s needs well for decades and is admired internationally. Supply cannot be assumed – it needs planning, monitoring and managing, locally, regionally and nationally.
‘Government must not simply ‘pass the buck’ to local authorities and risk the further corrosion of what was once a coherent system, in favour of an inconsistent and fragmented approach. Proper capacity and capability must be employed centrally and locally to oversee future provision.
‘All this is in stark contrast to the positive changes and measures that are being introduced to ‘fix a broken housing market’ and ensure that planning supports the delivery of housing,’ said Mr Jackson.
He added: ‘The MPA will be making vigorous representations to government to ‘think again’ about many of the proposed changes to the NPPF. There is no point wishing for more housing if the essential materials upon which they rely are not given equivalent support.’