The Mineral Product Association has responded to Government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) consultation, setting out why the proposed changes will further weaken the mineral planning system and threaten the replenishment of aggregate and other mineral reserves which represent the largest material supply in the economy and essential for the construction industry and manufacturing.
At a time when supplies are becoming increasingly strained, the need to ensure an adequate and steady supply of aggregates and industrial minerals has arguably never been stronger. Given the Government's focus on the need for more housing and infrastructure, it needs to 'make the link' to the requirement for a resilient supply chain of raw materials in order to secure sustainable solutions and ensure security of mineral supply over the medium and long term.
There is a worrying tendency in Government and its agencies to 'assume supply' without understanding what is needed to enable supply. An efficient and effective mineral planning system with up to date plans, well-resourced planning departments and good data are prerequisites as is appropriate capacity and capability in MHCLG to ensure the system is planned, monitored and managed.
Without a strategic approach to the future supply of aggregates and mineral products such as cement and lime, concrete, asphalt and industrial minerals, it is inevitable that supply strains will increase over the medium to long term.
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 backdrop of over 3 billion tonnes of construction aggregates being required to service national demand to 2030 and beyond.
If adopted, the proposed changes to the NPPF would 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 since the Verney Royal Commission introduced the process in 1975.
Similarly, proposed modifications to the policies on landbanks and stocks of permitted reserves would jeopardise the future adequate provision of key mineral products, including crushed rock, cement, lime and industrial sands, all critical to construction and manufacturing.
Nigel Jackson, MPA Chief Executive, said:
"Mineral planning is a long game, with the development process needed to bring forward a new operational site typically taking up to 5 to 15 years. Supply cannot be assumed. It needs planning, monitoring and managing nationally, regionally and locally which in turn requires a robust, long term policy framework. The growing gap between aspirations around housing and infrastructure delivery and the supply chain means the Government's ambitions are potentially at risk from the outset and they must give the long-term development of mineral resources as much encouragement as the developments and end-uses which rely upon them. We will continue to work with Government and key stakeholders to help 'make the link' between essential mineral products which underpin the economy and our quality of life."