Memorandum by QPA (PGP 03)
"THE PLANNING GREEN PAPER"
1.1 QPA is the principal trade association
representing the UK aggregates industry. In England our members
produce well over 90 per cent of aggregates extractedsand
and gravel and crushed rock as well as other non aggregate minerals
such as silica sand, agricultural and industrial lime including
limestone, chalk, clay and shale for cement. In restoring their
quarries our members are often dependent on landfill. Our members
are also major owners of land especially in rural areas and they
thus have a direct and relevant interest in the efficient working
of the planning system at all levels in the process.
1.2 In framing this memorandum we have worked
from three basic points:
(i) There is a need to make the current planning
system simpler, more effective and more consistent across the
(ii) We strongly support the retention of
the present minerals and waste planning system at the County or
sub-regional level because minerals, in particular, have always
had a special and distinct position within the planning system,
this distinction should be retained. In simple terms a system
that is redesigned to deal with housing or retail issues will
probably not work for mineralssomething the Stevens Committee
recognised in the 1976 Report on Minerals Planning.
(iii) We strongly support retention of County
Planning departments as we believe they are the only authorities,
which have sufficient size to support fully experienced, expert
minerals and waste planning teams.
2. THE EFFECTIVENESS
2.1 We welcome the recognition in the Green
Paper that the development plan system is too slow and too complex.
We also welcome the proposals to simplify the system and believe
that if structure plans are to be abolished they must be replaced
by properly resourced sub-regional plans, perhaps prepared by
teams made up from those who handled structure plans in the Counties.
However, whilst we welcome retention of minerals and waste planning
as a County function, we are very concerned as to whether this
will be properly resourced without structure plans remaining as
a County function. This has not been addressed in the Green Paper
and presents a resourcing conundrum. We are also concerned that
abolition of structure plans will leave too wide a jump from Regional
Spatial Strategies down to LDFs.
2.2 We have examined the latter problem
from the minerals and waste point of view and believe the answer
lies in the following solution:
(i) provide for a level of sub-regional planning
with appropriate and realistic boundaries;
(ii) replace structure plans with sub-regional
plans prepared by joint teams from the County Councils;
(iii) retain minerals and waste local plans
as a County function;
(iv) take minerals and waste development
plan functions away from District Councils and UDCs and allocate
this to formal groupings of UDCs on a sub-regional basis, perhaps
grouped with an adjoining County. For Districts allocate the function
to a grouping with appropriate adjoining Counties.
2.3 On Section 54A of the Town and Country
Planning Act 1990 the minerals industry has invested heavily in
land allocated for mineral working in adopted minerals local plans
in the expectation that Section 54A would continue. If the intention
is to lose or weaken Section 54A, something we would strongly
oppose, it is essential that any legislation for a new system
makes proper provision to "save" existing adopted plans
along with any allocations for mineral working within them.
2.4 Minerals local plansthese have
existed, principally as a County function, since about 1982. They
are a tried and tested system. They could, of course, be produced
more quickly and more efficiently and, although there are no specific
proposals for this in the Green Paper, we would urge evolutionary
reforms here which would be complementary to the other reforms
in the Green Paper. We are concerned that at present minerals
site specific allocations get considered in detail twiceonce
at the plan stage and then again at the planning application stage.
This is wrong.
2.5 Our vision for minerals (and waste)
local plans would include:
Simpler plans with far fewer policiesmore
akin to the Essex Plan's 8 policies than Nottinghamshire's 80
More consistency of policy approach
across the countryit makes no sense at all, for example,
to have differing policies from area to area in respect of SSSIs
Simplifying the structure of minerals
local plans, which we believe need three clear sections:
Part (i)General, national/regional
policy frameworkthe statement of core policies;
Part (ii)Development control
Part (iii)Plan based preferred
areas to match the arithmetic of plan provision in (i);
Both (i) and (ii) should closely
follow the national and regional policy advice template.
We thus believe there is a continuing
need for strong centralised guidance/policy advice in the form
of PPGs and MPGs.
Minerals plans should continue to
be framed in accordance with RAWP/RPG policy advice.
As with the more general Green Paper
proposals, Inspectors' reports should be binding (paragraph 4.26).
Public inquiries into minerals and
waste local plans should continue to have a mix of round-table,
hearing and adversarial procedures. Round table procedures work
well in dealing with the general plan policies, adversarial sessions
are the best approach for allocations/preferred areas issues.
For Districts and UDCs, minerals
planning arrangements are far less satisfactory. Many Districts
are far too small to be able to retain a nucleus of expert minerals
planning staff and far too small to be able to take the necessary,
broad, strategic view. This applies, also, to many of the UDCs.
For these areas, QPA believes the solution is to provide powers
requiring groups of UDCs, or groups of UDCs and any adjoining
Counties, to produce joint minerals (and waste) local plans and
to provide powers for isolated, lower-tier Districts to produce
joint Plans with the Counties with which they are associated.
As mentioned above we also believe use should be made of sub-regional
3. THE ROLE
3.1 We are generally content with the proposals
for new/strengthened arrangements for the regions including the
Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs) set out in paragraphs 4.39-4.53
of the Green Paper. Assuming County Structure Plans are abolished
it will be essential that there is a strong and influential tier
of regional planning and as we have said, provision for an effective
tier of sub-regional planning. For minerals we believe retention
of the RAWP system as the technical advice forum to the regions
is absolutely essential and indeed may provide a model from other
4. NATIONAL POLICY
4.1 We would like to stress that QPA members
find national planning guidancePPGs and MPGs invaluable,
both to inform our members' work within the planning systemminerals
local plans, planning applications etc and to provide a bedrock
of policy material guidance at local plan and planning appeal
inquiries. We don't believe these are a "burden on the planning
system" nor do they stifle regional and local flexibility.
The development plan system is already far too inconsistent in
its policy approach across the countryto water down the
role of national planning guidance could only make things worse.
As set out in our views above, if minerals local plans are evolved
as we have suggested, it will be essential that the core policy
parts are founded on clear national and regional guidance. MPGs
and PPGs should be retained.
4.2 Their status as material planning guidance
does need to be strengthened by having their role as "quasi-circulars"
enshrined in legislation. At the very least they should all carry
the statement set out on the back of the original (1988) version
of MPG1, ie:
"The Secretaries of State and their
Inspectors will have regard to this guidance in dealing with development
plan matters, appeals and called-in planning applications and
the Secretaries of State expect LPAs to have regard to it in the
exercise of their planning functions."
4.3 It is essential, in our view, that LPAs
pay much closer regard to national policy guidancedays
are currently spent at local plan inquiries dealing with objections
where a plan has departed from National guidance.
4.4 It is also essential that MPGs and PPGs
are kept up-to-date by more frequent and on-time reviews. It would
be helpful if there was a distinction made between the policy
guidance MPGs such as MPG 1 and 6 and the technical advice MPGs
such as MPG 8,9 and 14, for example. In essence we believe the
PPGs and MPGs need "repackaging" to cut down repetition,
but done in such a way as to retain the basic core of national
policy advice largely unchanged. This would also help to speed
the review process.
5.1 The development control system in England
is in need of reform, but not necessarily in the way set out in
the Green Paper. There is a growing obsession with performance
league tables, best value and speed which is distorting the system
and leading to premature and poorly justified refusals. What is
needed is a properly resourced system, staffed by expert planners
with properly trained Councillors making the decisions, geared
to providing a quality decision within a period appropriate to
the complexity of the proposal. For all but the simplest mineral
cases, we believe decisions should be aimed at, and project managed
within six to nine months. In respect of the larger proposals
we believe that there should be an agreed delivery contract to
ensure a timely decision. It is likewise totally unacceptable,
for all but the most exceptionally complex cases, to take over
12 months to determine. Where a Section 106 obligation has to
be agreed (post-resolution) this should be programmed to take
no longer than three months.
5.2 What the minerals industry wants from
the development control system is the right decision, at the right
time, for the right reasons.
5.3 On the detailed proposals in Chapter
five we have set out a full critique in our formal response to
DTLR. A few key parts of this are highlighted below:
Charging for pre-application discussions
(paragraph 5.10) would totally negate the good intentions of paragraph
5.9 and the model checklist. Pre-application discussions should
be encouraged. Charging fees for this part of the process would
have the opposite effect.
We strongly support the procedures
in paragraph 5.11 and 5.25-26 to project manage larger proposalsthis
is very necessary for minerals cases and particularly so if our
suggestion for a longer statutory period for such cases is accepted.
We have serious misgivings about
the proposals in paragraphs 5.17-5.18 to synchronise the planning
consent process with other authorisations. Other agencies, particularly
the Environment Agency, have very slow procedures and very different
aims. Synchronisation of procedures could end up delaying the
planning consent. There is, moreover, a particular difficulty
with the Environment Agency, which is both slower and inconsistent
in its approach on consultations and seems to want to encroach
on the land use planning system as an alternative planning authority.
The Agency's role as an environmental consultee not a "land-use-planning
consultee" needs to be clarified and enforced.
With regard to Statutory Consultees
(paragraphs 5.29 and 5.35) whilst we welcome the proposal to reduce
the number of these, we reject putting the onus of consultation
with the applicant rather than the planning authority. What is
suggested here will make no difference to the overall time of
decision and could well result in all such consultations being
carried out twice. As discussed later, we also strongly reject
making such consultations chargeable.
With regard to consultees generallythere
is a need for clear government guidance on timetables for responses.
The 14-day response rate in Article 10(4)(b) rule in the GDPO
1995 sets out a statutory remedy for dealing with late consultees.
However, a 14-day response on major proposals would be unrealistic.
Perhaps consideration should be given to amending this part of
the GDPO to one month and enforcing much stricter adherence to
this timetable. It is essential that such a system is not circumvented
by responses on a "holding basis".
Limiting planning permissions to
three years (page 40) is strongly opposedit must not be
applied to minerals extraction proposals. For minerals permissions,
normal practice is to grant permission subject to conditions requiring
later submission of details of working and restoration, construction
of accesses, plant etc. Only when the initial permission is granted
is it normal for the mineral operator to gain access to the siteit
can take well over three years to complete the further submissionsfive
years is sometimes too short for thisthree years would
be impossible. It is also important to remember that in most cases
a mineral permission does not have a "legal start" until
all such submissions are approved, the processing plant constructed
and a production tonnage has been sold out of the front gate.
An exemption for mineral extraction permissions is thus essential.
It is also essential that when an expiring consent needs to be
renewed, provided there are no material differences to the original,
the whole issue does not need to be considered afresh.
The whole process of managing planning
committees needs a serious overhaul. Meetings must be held at
least once a month to ensure speed of decision. Agendas should
be publicly available two clear weeks before meetings to allow
mistakes in reports to be rectified. Councillors should be required
to undergo full training on planning and, for Counties, minerals
and waste planning issues. Copies of all consultees' responses
must be available at reasonable cost and Committee minutes should
be in full, not just brief summaries of decisions. Thus reasons
for permissions/refusals should be made quite clear (paragraph
5.60) in the reports/minutes. For appeal cases, Inspectors should
likewise be required to give full reasons for their decisions
and for conditions.
We believe the whole process of development
control should be project managed with strict timetablessay
one week to update applications, consultations and advertisements
out within two weeks of validation, target Committees identified
and so on. Both the dc and appeal system need a much more disciplined
approach with clear and realistic performance standards geared
to the types and complexities of the applications.
6. FEES AND
6.1 The planning service is a statutory,
mandatory service provided by local authorities, which used to
be entirely funded by rates. The minerals industry continues to
pay rates through the system of UBR but has increasingly had to
pay more and more charges for services that used to be "free".
The Green Paper proposes even more charges. It is useful therefore
to consider, by way of a worked example, the likely level of charges
now in being/proposed. For this exercise we have assumed a fairly
modest new sand and gravel quarry with a 1.5mt reserve, a 10 year
life and a relatively smooth process leading to a speedy permission.
|Minerals Fees for sites over 15ha:
|Planning application fee||£14,250
|Planning Application Fee||£33,000
|Enforcement and Monitoring Fee||
|(DTLR Option four = £2,160 pa) ie
||£21,600 (over 10 years)
|Pre application discussions||
|with MPA (say 3 meetings, including site visit @ £500/day)
|Pre application consultations||
|(say five statutory consultations @ £500/day, 1/2 day each)
|Section 106 Obligations tariff||
|(assume 10p/tonneOxfordshire uses 10p/tonne as does South Lanarkshire)
|Total (Over 10 Years)||£207,350 (ie 13.8p/tonne)
All of the above charges would be extra to the aggregates
levy of £1.60/tonne plus VAT which comes into effect on 1.4.02
and which has been calculated on the basis of the environmental
disbenefits of quarrying and would thus duplicate the Section
106 obligation charge, discussed in Annexe B and summarised above.
Thus the total of charges and fees and tax for this notional
1.5mt reserve quarry would be £207,500 + £2,400,000
ie £2,607,500 at today's rates.
6.2 We would like to emphasise:
Fees and charges are getting out of handthe
solution is to properly fund local authorities from the Council
Tax/UBR system. Recent reviews of local authority financing need
re-visiting in this respect.
For minerals, the regime, including aggregates
levy is already penal. Aggregates are a low cost, low profit,
essential basic resourcethey cannot be considered as part
of the same charging/community benefit system as retail superstores.
As we have demonstrated above, what is proposed in the way of
fees, charges and tariffs is beyond belief.
Any system of fees and charges as proposed in
the Green Paper would discriminate in favour of existing permissions.
Only new extensions and new sites would be subject to the whole
spectrum of charges set out abovethere would thus be an
interference in the principles of free and fair trade.
7. THIRD PARTY
7.1 We strongly support the conclusions of the Green
Paper that third party rights of appeal do not need widening.
There are already adequate remedies available to third parties
through the courts. Any widening of these could only slow the
whole process down further and introduce even further uncertainty.
8. REFORMING PLANNING
8.1 The majority of new planning permissions granted
for quarrying now include Section 106 obligations and an increasing
number of these include provision for what is commonly called
"planning gain". Our members are thus very concerned
at the proposals in the Consultation Paper, as now explained.
8.2 The first key point is that Government guidance has
always made clear that "if there is a choice between imposing
conditions and entering into a planning obligation, the imposition
of a condition which satisfies the policy tests for conditions
is preferable."that should remain the caseSection
106 obligations are complex legal documents that are the principal
reason for delaying complex applications such as those for minerals
and waste. If Government policy on the preference to use conditions
instead was followed, much time, money and delay could be saved.
8.3 Our second key point is that minerals should be treated
differently to the construction sector. Minerals extraction is
a low value, temporary activity that does not normally result
in enhancement of land values. The minerals industry does not
have the vast financial resources available to the retail or housing
sector, which can be used to offer planning gain packages as a
way of securing planning consents. Minerals are different and
require different considerations in any proposals to reform the
Section 106 obligation system.
8.4 Our members have long been concerned at the way demands
for planning gain/community benefits at the application stage
have evolved out of control, despite law and policy guidance designed
to control this. The situation has now been allowed to escalate
out of control as a barely legitimate way for local authorities
to augment declining budgets. It is sometimes also justified as
a form of ad hoc development land tax. That is indefensible. Attempts
at imposing development land taxes have failed twice since 1947.
If this is to be the reason for encouraging the practice of planning
gain/community benefits then it should be done openly and honestly
as a properly legitimate development land tax through primary
legislation. Planning applications should be determined on their
merits, not on the scale of the "bribe" accompanying
them. However, we must emphasise that our members do not believe
such a tax is either necessary or desirable and thus we reject
the concept of planning gain/community benefits, however sought.
8.5 We recognise, however, that it is impossible to turn
the clock back totally on what has, regrettably, become common
practice. We have therefore set out some specific comments on
the paper where we believe that are concerns from the wider planning
point of view and in particular in relation to quarrying.
The good advice in circular 1/97, that planning obligations
should only be sought where they would be "fairly and reasonably
related in scale and kind to the proposed developments" and
that "planning permissions must not be bought or sold",
seems to be rarely properly observed. In Oxfordshire for example,
as we have mentioned, the County Council are demanding obligations,
which include provision for a 10p/tonne levy to provide for offsite
infrastructure in the Lower Windrush Valley, using a development
plan policy as justification.
8.6 It is QPA's contention that demands for both planning
gain and community benefit are out of control, a situation exacerbated
by ever more swingeing cuts in Local Authority finances. Although
court cases and Circular 1/97 have helped to determine what is
a material consideration in determination of a planning application,
no limits have been set on what could be demanded by a "voluntary"
agreement. In the Plymouth supermarket cases, the Council actively
encouraged Tesco's and Sainsbury's to compete in what could be
8.7 Similar demands are being placed upon the minerals
industry where demands for new bypasses, donations of land, community
support levies are becoming both ever more common and ever more
8.8 From a position from within the minerals industry
it is clear that we are now close to a situation where planning
permissions are having to be bought. From the point of view of
local residents, they see it as a situation where a mineral operator
seems to be bribing a planning authority to get its permission.
Both views are close to the truth and neither is desirable. There
is now an urgent need for the Government to impose parameters
on the activity and, in line with Option A in the Annexe, to offer
firmer guidance on the subject. Whilst Circular 1/97 has helped,
it does not seem to have been successful in curbing the wilder
enthusiasms of local authorities for collecting cash or kind in
return for the grant of planning permissions.
8.9 The minerals sector does not agree that betterment
should always be recouped for the community. In terms of mineral
working this is a temporary activity, which frequently hands back
to the community a landscape in an enhanced condition or use.
There is no "betterment" as such in terms of land value
as there might be in the case of built developmentthe premise
of betterment is thus wrong in our case. If Section 106 obligations
are to be reformedminerals/waste issues require different
treatment to retail and housing.
8.10 The Paper wilfully misquotes from the Nolan Committee
Report in relation to planning obligations and as a result completely
misdirects the issues. Recommendation R36 of the Nolan Report
(paragraph 320) states:
"The DoE (and the Scottish and Welsh offices) should
consider whether present legislation on planning obligations is
sufficiently tightly worded to prevent planning permissions from
being bought and sold."
8.11 What is now proposed will quite simply exacerbate
that situation, albeit to a set tariff, but one set without regard
to the relevance of the development proposed and levied in the
name of relieving public financing.
8.12 These are bad proposals, drafted for the wrong reasons.
What is needed is a tighter system, not a looser one, framed around
Option A in Annexe A.
9. KEY CONCLUSIONS
9.1 QPA believes minerals planning is different: it currently
has a special and distinct position within the planning system,
deriving from the Stevens Committee Report and which should not
Mineral extraction is like no other form of developmentit
is a temporary process after which the landscape is either restored
or enhanced. It is not a process like built development that normally
results in an enhanced land value.
We are pleased to see retention of the RAWPs,
of minerals and waste local plans as a County functionwith
evolutionary improvements this process should continue.
For UDCs and Districts the system lacks resources,
minerals expertise and a strategic overviewthe answer lies
in some form of statutory joint working arrangements.
We reject the proposal to levy ever more fees
and chargesthe answer lies in proper resourcing for local