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By Mineral Products Association

How the next Government can start planning for growth

Mineral Products Association

3 min read Partner content

Whoever wins the next general election will face the challenge of jumpstarting a UK economy that has struggled to take off since the pandemic. Low growth combined with high inflation has left voters feeling squeezed, and policy makers of all stripes with a headache.

One key that many hope could unlock economic growth is planning reform. Building more houses and infrastructure projects could boost the construction sector and its supply chain, take the sting out of housing costs, and make the country better connected in the long run.

As the construction sector’s largest supplier by volume, the mineral products sector is well-placed to support a future construction-led boost to economic growth. And in its latest policy paper, Priorities for the Next Government, the Mineral Products Association (MPA) has set out what the winner of the next election should do to help the sector do so.

Voices in all major parties have rightly called for more housebuilding as a way to propel the economy forwards, but the next Government will only be able to build more houses on a sustainable basis if it ensures the construction sector and its supply chain has the capacity it needs.

However, at the moment, permitted reserves of crushed rock, sand, and gravel – essential building materials – are in decline. For every 100 tonnes of sand and gravel sold over the last 10 years, for example, permission is only granted for the industry to extract another 63 tonnes.

This is unsustainable in the long term as reserves decline, and Government will have to tackle the issue at some point.

Fortunately, these materials are all abundant in the ground, and common-sense reforms to planning and permitting would allow the mineral products sector to extract what the construction sector needs on a sustainable basis.

MPA’s recent Smart Regulation paper set out a series of tweaks the next Government could make to streamline mineral planning and permitting, curb unnecessary cost and delay in the system, halt the decline in permitted reserves, and put the sector on the right footing to supply more housebuilding and more infrastructure projects, powering economic growth across the country.

Part of this involves better funding for cash-strapped local planning authorities, which would help address the under-resourcing and skills shortages from which many are currently suffering.

More dedicated mineral planners, equipped with the resources they need, could be better trusted to make the right decisions, eliminating much of the delay, bureaucracy, and need for costly appeals that planning applicants in the sector find themselves facing all too often.

Action to achieve this should include ringfencing planning and permitting fees so that, instead of subsidising other activities, they go towards the services applicants are paying for. The next Government could also work to ensure that all relevant local planning authorities have access to specialist mineral planners.

The Government should also help businesses invest with confidence by making it clearer just how much demand they can expect in the coming years. They can achieve this by publishing a ‘National Statement of Need’ for minerals.

After the general election, voters across the country will be hoping that the next Government, whoever may form it, can get the economy growing again, and improve living standards.

Achieving that is easier said than done, but the mineral products sector is ready to contribute towards the investment, construction, and infrastructure that could provide the key to getting the economy moving again. But that will require the right support and the right policies from the next Government.

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