First publishedon www.AggBusiness.com
MPA chief executive Nigel Jackson
The UK-based Mineral Products Association
(MPA) has responded with concern to the independent review of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, announced by Defra Secretary of State, Michael Gove.
While the commitment to conserve and enhance England’s most cherished landscapes as part of the Government’s wider 25 year plan for the environment, alongside the need to protect and enhance landscapes and habitats, is fully recognised, the Association has raised concerns that the review process must also properly account for the role and contribution of historic and long-standing industries, including mineral extraction and processing, that currently operate within and around such designations, and which already form a key part of their traditional working landscape.
An MPA spokesperson said: “Our landscapes have been created and influenced by the geology that underpins it, and unlike other forms of activity minerals can only be worked where they lie. Over 200 active quarry operations are currently located within areas of landscape designation, with a further 98 sites located within 1km of their designated boundaries – collectively representing over 23% of all the active quarry sites in England. Mineral extraction is a vital and valued activity in all rural settings but particularly within and around National Parks and AONBs where economic activity tends to be comparatively constrained. The minerals industry is a significant employer and contributes to the wider local economy by supporting its own supply chain.
“The mineral resources within areas of landscape designation and their settings represent an essential and sustainable source of material for wider regional and national markets, as well as supporting local added-value operations including sand and gravel, rock, cement, concrete, ball clay, china clay and dimension stone. In doing so, these activities collectively enable the delivery of Government policy priorities around housing and infrastructure, and also support rural employment while providing associated benefits to both the local economy and wider society.”
Nigel Jackson, MPA chief executive, said: “Some contributors to the review may have the impression that industry wants to see environmental considerations given less weight after Brexit, but that would be mistaken. By and large this industry wishes to see existing regulation continue but its implementation improved. We have long recognised the special status of areas of landscape designation and the need for quarry operations to be planned and operated responsibly, in accordance with the NPPF. That is currently under review and threatens to weaken the existing mineral planning system and constrain future supply. This review could compound that risk by making it harder to release future reserves for an essential industry, which is the construction industry’s largest supplier and critical to the delivery of the Government’s own aspirations for housing and infrastructure improvement.
“Government policy rightly sets a high bar for any new development taking place in these currently protected areas, but crucially allows the need to conserve and protect to be balanced by the wider needs of the nation. Consequently, it is equally important not to lose sight of the fact that nearly 300 active quarry sites in England are already operating within or adjacent to these designations, supporting the wider economic contribution from these working landscapes and the communities they support. We will therefore be submitting evidence to the independent review and hope that we are given the opportunity to contribute to the process, and help the panel members understand the essential role and important contribution mineral operations associated with areas of landscape designations make to the economy, our quality of life and biodiversity and nature conservation.”