This page provides an overview of the general planning requirements for land-based aggregates extraction; more detailed information on planning can be found on the pages dedicated to operational considerations, marine, and recycled and by-products.
Planning is devolved to the Member States of the European Union but policies, procedures and decisions must comply with European Directives and Conventions, principally on environmental matters such as environmental assessment, impacts on fauna and flora, water, air quality and noise, but also involving materials and construction standards, transport, public consultation and access to information, and waste management (including mining waste). The legal framework for the extraction of minerals from the land is largely provided by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 L0166, amended by the Planning and Compensation Act 1991 L0167, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 L0125 and the Planning Act 2008 L0379, and the minerals provisions of the Environment Act 1995 L0173, but the Protection of Local Services (Planning) Bill, now before Parliament L0380, will lead to changes when enacted. A current ALSF project will provide updated guidance to legislation L0147. Minerals are defined in the 1990 act as including 'all minerals and substances in or under land of a kind ordinarily worked for removal by underground or surface working, but excluding peat cut for purposes other than sale', including minerals used as aggregates.
Until 2004, the planning system aimed to regulate the use of land in the public interest: where and how development should be undertaken and what should be conserved. In 2004, however, spatial planning was introduced. This integrates policies for the development and use of land with other policies and programmes that influence the development of land and communities and how these function L0387. Spatial plans are intended to:
- provide a clear vision for the future pattern of development which should be sustainable;
- consider the needs and problems of communities and relate these to the development of land; and
- integrate development and regeneration aims with other strategies and programmes for instance community strategies, health policy and wildlife management plans.
The legal and regulatory context of mineral planning in England is summarised in the Minerals Planning Guidance Notes (MPG's), Minerals Policy Statements (MPS's) and Practice Guides from the Department for Communities and Local Government (and its predecessor Departments). The MPS's and MPG's seem likely to be condensed to focus on core policies within a single slim planning document in the near future. Minerals Policy Statement 1 (2006) L0381 sets out the government's overall mineral planning policies and includes an annex that deals specifically with aggregates. Minerals Policy Statement 2 (2005) L0183 sets out policies for addressing the environmental effects of mineral extraction including, in particular, those for dealing with noise and dust. Certain MPG's provide guidance relevant to all minerals including aggregates. These are:
MPG2 - applications, permissions and conditions L0230
MPG4 - revocation, modification, discontinuance and suspension orders L0382
MPG5 - stability in surface mineral workings and tips L0232
MPG7 – reclamation of mineral workings L0160
MPG8 – Planning and Compensation Act 1991- Interim Development Order Permissions: statutory provisions and procedures L0233
MPG9 - Planning and Compensation Act 1991 – conditions L0234
MPG14 – Environment Act 1995 – review of mineral planning permissions L0383
Mineral Planning Authorities (MPA's) are responsible for mineral planning. These are county councils, London borough councils, metropolitan borough councils, unitary authorities and National Park authorities. MPA's are expected to take account of this guidance when developing minerals planning policies or determining minerals planning applications.
The main elements of system are:
- preparation of minerals development frameworks accompanied by sustainability appraisals
- consideration and determination of planning applications which for most minerals proposals are accompanied by results of environmental impact assessments
- monitoring and enforcement of planning conditions
- reviews of old minerals permissions
Under the 2004 legislation, MPA's that are county councils are required to prepare minerals development frameworks while those that are not county councils include minerals in local development frameworks L0256. These development frameworks consist of a folder of documents that includes:
- a core strategy –setting out the core policies for delivering the spatial strategy and vision for the area;
- area action plans, as appropriate for any key areas of change or conservation; and
- a proposals section setting out any site-specific policies outside the areas of any action plans.
The development framework for minerals may identify areas within which extraction might be acceptable subject to suitable planning applications being lodged, and policies, proposals and criteria against which planning applications are determined and should normally conform to national guidance. It provides the basis for rational and consistent planning decisions on sustainable minerals development. In the case of aggregates, the documents may indicate levels of supply that might be provided for during the plan period. The documents must be subjected to sustainability appraisal of the economic, environmental and social effects of a plan. This consists of the examination of a series of policy options in order to identify that which provides the best sustainability outcome for the area concerned. Draft documents are published for public consultation and are examined in public before an independent planning inspector. Plans are intended to be monitored, reviewed and updated regularly.
It is the responsibility of the relevant Mineral Planning Authority (MPA) to consider and determine minerals planning applications within its area L0245. This includes the grant or refusal of planning permission for the working of minerals, for the erection of any associated plant or building, for the disposal of mineral waste or for other ancillary purposes, and the imposition, when planning permission is granted, of conditions. The application is prepared by the minerals operator and submitted to the MPA but the operator is encouraged to have pre-application discussions with the MPA, the local community and other organisations that may have a legitimate interest in the proposal. The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations (1999) L0169 state that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is mandatory for all new mineral extraction sites or reviews or extensions to existing sites that exceed 25 hectares. EIA is also required for any site that the MPA considers to be likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, particularly in or near European sites of nature conservation. This information must be provided in an Environmental Statement at the same time as the submission of a planning application. The applicant may request the planning authority to determine whether an EIA is necessary (screening) and what it should consider (scoping). A guide to EIA procedures was published in 2006 L0384.
A few particularly contentious applications are "called in" for determination by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. That Secretary of State also determines planning appeals lodged by operators against refusal of planning permission or specific planning conditions.
Applications are referred for comment to certain bodies defined as statutory consultees. These include British Waterways, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills , English Heritage, English Nature, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Health and Safety Executive, Highways Agency, Highways Authority, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Network Rail and Sport England. Applications are advertised and comments from the public and other interested organisations are taken into account. Both categories are considered by an independent planning inspector through written representations, a hearing or public inquiry. Some cases are decided by the Inspector while some major cases are decided by the Secretary of State on receiving the inspector's report. These may be approved subject to planning conditions or refused. Decisions can be challenged by operators through the Courts but only on procedural grounds.
Under Parts 19-23 of Schedule 2 to the General Permitted Development Order 1995 L0197 some minor types of development are do not require planning permission. These must be notified to the MPA and can then be undertaken unless the MPA decides that planning permission will be needed because the proposed development would have significant impacts or adversely affect a site of acknowledged importance. Permitted development may include, for example, exploration for aggregates using small drilling rigs and trial pits.
Planning conditions and obligations
Planning conditions set out requirements needed to reduce impacts on the environment and community during operation and rehabilitation of the site. In general, a condition should not be imposed unless there is a definite need for it. All conditions should be relevant to planning and to the development to be permitted, enforceable, precise and reasonable in all other respects L0195. DETR Circular 11/95 "The use of conditions in planning permissions" provides detailed guidance L0385. Planning conditions attached to minerals permissions cover matters such as:
- time limits on, and duration of, working;
- access to, and protection of, the public highway;
- hours of working;
- depth of working;
- limitations on rate of or total production;
- protection of topsoil and subsoil;
- the nature and operation or buildings, plant and machinery and removal of these on completion;
- protection of the environment from dust, noise, blasting, pollution of surface and groundwater;
- management of wastes
- stability and safety;
- site boundaries and security;
- landscaping; and
- restoration and aftercare.
The MPA monitors operations to ensure that conditions are being complied with. If non-compliance is observed then the MPA will discuss the matter with the operator to rectify the situation. If the operator continues not to comply, then formal enforcement action is undertaken to secure compliance L0225.
In addition to planning conditions, planning obligations may be entered into by agreement between a developer and an MPA, or by means of a unilateral undertaking by a developer, to deal with matters that cannot be addressed through planning conditions (e.g. lorry routing). Guidance on these is set out in DCLG Circular 5/05 L0386.
Reviews of old minerals permissions
Under the Planning and Compensation Act 1991 and Environment Act 1995, MPA's are required to review old minerals planning permissions at regular intervals. Because many mineral workings are long term operations this provides an opportunity to consider whether earlier planning conditions conform with current good practice and, for instance, whether the original plans for restoration of the site still fit with planning policies for the local area. As a result of any review conditions may be updated without charge to the MPA unless the changes would have significant financial implications for the operation in which case the MPA may be required to pay compensation to the operator.
Guidance can be found in MPG's 8 L0233, 9 L0234 and 14 L0383.
Special features of planning for aggregates supply
Some areas of England have extensive resources of aggregate minerals and therefore high levels of extraction while other areas are less well endowed and are net consumers. Regional Aggregate Working Parties (technical bodies consisting of officials from central and local government, industry and other bodies such as the Environment Agency) advise the Department for Communities and Local Government and MPA's on technical issues of aggregates supply. Data are collected by MPA's at 4-year intervals on aggregates production and distribution. This allows the calculation of levels of consumption in each region. Demand estimates are made through econometric modelling for a period of about 15 years ahead. The results are compared with levels of permitted reserves of aggregates to assess how much material might need to be released through new planning permissions over the period. Guidelines on likely regional supply levels for primary aggregates are prepared after likely contributions from recycled materials, marine-dredged sand and gravel, and imports to England from elsewhere in the UK and from mainland Europe have been deducted from the total forecast demand. The MPA's consider supply options L0148 for meeting regional guidelines, taking account of existing permitted reserves and the ability to secure new supplies from environmentally acceptable areas. This process of apportionment achieves a view on appropriate supplies from each MPA area. Apportionments are tested through the preparation of minerals or local development frameworks. The guidelines are monitored and reviewed annually and are updated when necessary (essentially when demand expectations have increased or decreased significantly). Further information is in Annex 1 to MPS1 L0381. This approach to planning for supply is currently under review.