Weakening mineral planning system could threaten future supplies for construction
Nigel Jackson, Chief Executive of the Mineral Products Association has written to DCLG Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, asserting the need to continue cutting red tape in the extraction industry, support mineral planning and protect the Managed Aggregate Supply System.
These key inter-related issues potentially affect the Mineral Products industry’s ability to ensure that the construction industry can continue to be supplied with one million tonnes a day of essential mineral products. If the Government takes no action, it will undermine any attempts to fix a broken housing market and supply significant infrastructure projects that are planned over the next 5 to 10 years.
Firstly, the Cutting Red Tape review of mineral extraction, which the Government introduced in acknowledgement of the cumulative impacts of environmental and other regulation and a drive to secure £10bn of reduced costs for business, has stalled. It is imperative that momentum is regained, and that the Government continues to support the industry. Forming a joint Government/industry Strategic Group would enable detailed due diligence on developing more effective regulation through better implementation to be taken forward/undertaken.
Secondly, ensuring the provision of the 3.2 to 3.8bn tonnes of materials required to underpin the anticipated needs of the construction sector to 2030 needs active management to guarantee the right resources are made available when required. Inter-regional flows ensure a steady supply of mineral resources around the country, but localism has weakened their operation and delivery and devolution has added further complications given that material movements cross national boundaries. Rail depots and marine wharves, are critical to regional flows, require safeguarding as the need for housing progressively encroaches upon them.
MPA is supportive of the National Planning Policy Framework, yet stewardship of mineral planning by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has withered since 2015. Expert mineral planning resources must be in place, particularly as constraints on future supply are emerging and are likely to increase.
Thirdly, Local Aggregate Assessments (LAAs), which Aggregate Working Parties (AWPs) depend on in order to make plans, are based on historic levels of activity. LAA methodology is set out in DCLG guidance but, in the absence of updated National Guidelines to provide an objective statement of future demand for construction materials, the approach is backward looking as mineral planning authorities and AWPs are not equipped to properly consider future demand and coordinate supply between areas. This is creating inconsistencies and, in turn, tensions between mineral planning authorities and AWPs.
Further, AWP funding is uncertain. That, coupled with the loss of capacity in the Minerals and Waste Division at DCLG means that MASS is now seriously at risk. This feels perverse given recent proposals in the Housing White Paper, which embraces a sound evidence base to support the timely and effective delivery of local planning processes.
Commenting, Nigel Jackson, Chief Executive of the MPA said:
“All recent Governments have failed to make the link between their ambitions for building more houses and renewing and extending our national infrastructure and the essential mineral products upon which the construction industry relies. Current fascination with ‘off site manufacturing’ and an apparent bias towards timber construction are distractions and we must not ignore the need for 1 million tonnes per day of aggregates, concrete and asphalt which form the vast majority of the construction supply chain. Ensuring adequate supplies of aggregates around the country relies upon an efficient mineral planning system which encourages companies to submit planning applications for more aggregate reserves. Over recent years the system has been withering with vital staff and resources in both local and central Government being cut, not replaced or diverted. Eventually we will pay a price and the system that has operated reasonably well since the mid –‘70’s will fail to deliver the mineral and in turn mineral products we need at the right levels to feed the construction industry. Government needs to wake up and ‘make the link’ while there is still time to act.”