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UK government support for aggregates planning process is necessary

World Cement,

The need for the future mineral planning system to operate so that sufficient aggregates are made available to support economic growth and development has been confirmed in a new government statement. The Mineral Products Association (MPA) has been working for 18 months to ensure that the shadow government and now the government understands the need for essential aggregates and that a strategic approach to aggregates planning can and needs to be incorporated into the ‘localism’ agenda.

The MPA submitted evidence to the Communities and Local Government Committee on the Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies at the end of 2010.  The Committee’s subsequent report (28 February 2011) acknowledged the MPA’s evidence and recommended the retention of certain key elements of the Managed Aggregate Supply System (MASS).  On 23 June 2011, the government stated its support for the Committee’s recommendation (Paragraph 22 – Government Response to the Communities and Local Government Committee’s Report Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies: a planning vacuum):

“Mineral planning authorities will have responsibility for continuing to plan for an adequate and steady supply of aggregate minerals to support economic growth, and they should do this within the longstanding arrangements for minerals planning. This includes receiving technical advice from Aggregate Working Parties, whose members include officers from mineral planning authorities and the minerals industry. DCLG is working with the minerals industry and local government to agree how aggregate minerals planning arrangements should operate in the longer term.”

According to a recent press release, the MPA believes that it is essential that the emerging National Planning Policy Framework recognises the important role that the MASS has performed over the last 35 years and could continue to fulfil in the future as a vital component of a more ‘localist’ approach to strategic planning for aggregates supply. 

The MPA also stresses that local development plan provision is still too slow and too low, with less than 25% of documents in place some 4 years after full coverage was required.  Permitted reserves, particularly sand and gravel, are still declining year on year with 42% of sand and gravel landbanks now less than the minimum 7 years required and getting lower, whilst replenishment rates continue to remain below parity at around 60%. 

The Chief Executive of the MPA, Nigel Jackson, stated, “Although the impact of the recession will take the pressure off some areas where reserves are under strain, there is no room for complacency. With use of recycled and secondary aggregates pretty much at maximum, future demand will continue to be largely dependent on primary land won aggregates … Whilst the MPA is trying hard to work with the grain of ‘localism’ it is important that the actual outcomes from this emerging system are monitored closely to ensure that the mineral planning system continues to provide a steady and adequate supply of aggregates which is so essential to the construction and manufacturing industry and the economy.  The MPA intends to do that monitoring.”

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