Small but Mighty Changes in the Revised National Planning Policy Framework: Facilitating the Sustainable Use of Minerals

12th December 2018

In setting out the approach to be taken towards mineral development, the revised NPPF carries forward many of the points made in the previous version. One major difference, however, is that the subject is now afforded its own separate chapter rather than being one of many individual sections within the document. In addition, this part of the Framework is slightly longer than previously with some additional detail and clarification of policy provided.

In establishing policies for mineral-related development, the Framework advises that local authorities should:

  • Provide for the extraction of resources but should not identify opportunities for new peat extraction;
  • Consider how secondary or recycled materials can be used as substitutes to reduce the demand for mineral extraction;
  • Continue to identify Mineral Safeguarding Areas and apply other policies to avoid the sterilisation by other forms of development. Similarly, the chapter indicates that local authorities should protect sites and opportunities for mineral processing developments such as concrete plants;

The NPPF continues to place a strong emphasis on the prompt and high-quality restoration of former mineral sites to allow their reuse and remediation.

In determining mineral related planning application the NPPF emphasises that, with the notable exception of coal, ‘great weight’ should be attached the benefits of mineral extraction. Landbanks of minerals should be provided for, primarily in locations outside protected landscapes such as National Parks. Significantly, the NPPF does not preclude extraction of minerals in such areas where necessary.

The NPPF continues to emphasise the need to maintain a proper supply of minerals. The key requirements, carried over from the previous version, are that landbanks of 7 years for sand and 10 years for crushed rock, should still be provided for. In order to retain competition, these should be provided in a range of different locations.

The document also retains a section within the minerals chapter which deals with oil, gas and coal extraction. Notably, the guidance on the provision of onshore oil and gas, including ‘unconventional hydrocarbons’ (presumably a reference to shale gas) has been strengthened in order to protect energy security and assist the transition to a low carbon economy. There remains a strong presumption against granting planning permission for new coal extraction.

For more information please contact Partner, Iestyn John.

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