The Government's proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) announced this year could potentially reverse the long-held recognition that minerals, and aggregates, are 'essential', a central principle of the Managed Aggregate Supply System that has been in place since the Verney Royal Commission introduced the process in 1975.
Against this backdrop, over 210 attendees from over 100 different organisations including the minerals industry, national agencies, local government, NGOs and specialist consultancies from as far afield as Cornwall, Cumbria and Northumberland attended the annual Mineral Products Association (MPA) / Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) mineral planning conference, which took place in Central London on the 24th May to consider how to keep minerals on the planning agenda.
In his opening address to the conference, RTPI President John Acres stressed the importance of mineral planning, given that minerals are the bedrock on which the economy is built.
Stuart Wykes (Director, Land & Natural Resources at Tarmac Ltd), Julia Webberley (Technical Secretary of South West England AWP), Harry Burchill (Planning Policy Officer at RTPI) and Adrian Cooper (Planning Policy & Strategy Manager, Shropshire Council) provided the conference with four individual perspectives on the proposed revisions to the NPPF and their potential implications for the future of minerals planning – including the need for the essentiality of minerals to be formally recognised in policy, the importance of linking provision with future demand and the role of stability and certainty in the delivery of an efficient and effective planning system. The presentations and subsequent discussions highlighted considerable consensus around the potential risks and consequences for the successful delivery of Government policies around housing and infrastructure.
Further insight into the changes proposed in the revisions to the NPPF were provided by Duncan McCallum, Policy Director at Historic England, who spoke about heritage policy and minerals. While Stewart Provan, Principal Development Planner at The Banks Group discussed some of the wider implications that may fall out from the Highthorne Surface Mine decision, which was recently determined by the Secretary of State under the current NPPF.
In the afternoon, Richard Kimblin QC and Thea Osmund-Smith from No5 Chambers provided delegates with a thorough and entertaining update on recent legal planning developments.
Tom Clifford from Atkins SNC-Lavalin provided some insight into the important links that are required between infrastructure projects and mineral planning, while Dr. Alan Thompson talked about the safeguarding requirements around silica sand planning.
Aurelie Delannoy, Director of Economic Affairs at the Mineral Products Association, provided a review of the current economic conditions and market outlook, alongside the contribution made by secondary and recycled minerals in supporting overall demand, and the conference concluded with Dr. Hazel Gibson from the University of Plymouth, who spoke about the importance of understanding public perceptions around controversial geosciences.
Mark Russell, Executive Director of Planning & Mineral Resources at the Mineral Products Association said: "The number of individuals and organisations represented at this year's conference once again illustrated the importance of mineral planning right across our country, and the crucial role it plays in helping support the delivery of Government's key policy areas of housing and infrastructure. However, the discussions throughout the day also highlighted that supply cannot simply be assumed. With over 3 billion tonnes of construction aggregates likely to be required by 2030, we need an effective, well supported system to plan, manage and monitor what represents the largest material flow in the national economy and ensure the continued delivery of a steady and adequate supply of the minerals society requires over the medium to long-term."