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Planning Process

What is involved in obtaining planning permission for new aggregate sites or extentions to existing sites?

Why is this important?
Planning permission is required for all forms of development within England and Wales. While some forms of development, generally those of a minor or temporary nature, are permitted by Rules and Orders made by the Government under the Planning Acts, most development relating to minerals and waste must be the subject of a planning application and can only occur if planning permission is subsequently granted. This is the principal point of control over development and means of controlling and enhancing the impact of mineral working on the environment, economy and local communities.

There are a number of requirements that a minerals operator must satisfy in order to obtain planning permission for a new aggregate site or an extension to an existing one. Indeed, the formal submission of a planning application to a Mineral Planning Authority (MPA) for such a development is often the result of considerable investment in both time and resources by a mineral operator. The right circumstances need to be in place however, if an operator is to be successful in achieving its ultimate objective of securing planning permission. Understanding the key stages involved in the preparation, submission and determination of an application for planning permission are important in considering such proposals.

Pre-application stage

Decisions on individual planning applications are primarily based on the policies and proposals of the Development Plan where there is an up to date plan that is relevant to the application proposals. There is considerable incentive for mineral operators to have their prospective sites allocated or identified in the Mineral Development Framework (MDF), which forms that part of the Development Plan that sets out the most relevant policies for minerals development. If the site is not identified, they will wish to try to ensure that there is scope within the policy framework to promote sites outside the allocated areas.

Minerals companies will get their prospective sites included in the MDF by dialogue and site promotion with the MPA at an early stage, either through the MDF review process or, where an MDF is already adopted, by seeking a consensus on how an application may be promoted within the framework of the existing policies. This will involve providing geological evidence to the MPA as to the suitability of the mineral deposit (content, depth, and quality in accordance with approved standards), the overall need for the site to come forward and an initial assessment as to method of working, possible impacts and restoration options. The information required at this stage is largely strategic with the majority of the working and restoration details being left until further into the planning application stage.

Cartoon of a field

How to obtain planning permission for mineral extraction.

  Photo of a greenfield site

A greenfield site containing valuable mineral resources.

If a mineral operator decides to proceed with an application it is good practice for it to seek an opinion from the MPA as to whether the proposed development requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and hence whether the application must be accompanied by an Environmental Statement (ES) that sets out the results of the EIA process. This is called a 'screening opinion'. If it is subsequently decided that an EIA required, which is usual for this form of development, it is good practice for an operator to seek a 'scoping opinion' from the MPA as to the scope of the issues and detailed assessment that should be included. Normally, an assessment on the significance of the effects on the environment would be required. If an EIA is required, this will take many months to complete and involve significant costs in carrying out the necessary studies, which might typically include some or all of the following topic areas, depending on the nature of the proposal:
  • ecology
  • hydrogeology
  • dust and emissions (air quality)
  • transport
  • noise
  • vibration (where blasting is involved)
  • archaeology
  • visual and landscape
  • agriculture
  • socio-economic issues (employment, recreation, community)
  • interactions
  • alternatives
The planning application will normally be supported by a statement containing a detailed explanation of things that will be relevant to its determination, including detail on such things as the site description, planning history if relevant, the full lifecycle of the proposal from initial soil stripping to restoration and aftercare, need for the mineral, and a review of the relevant national, regional and local planning policies.

It is sometimes good practice for operators with major proposals to engage and discuss their proposals with the local community at an early stage. Such engagement could involve local liaison groups, presentations to local groups, public exhibitions or the distribution of information and consultation leaflets.

 

 




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