Slow planning system 'threatening supply of construction material'

Minerals planning authorities are failing to produce local plans which identify land for future extraction, according to the body that represents the mineral extraction industry.

The Mineral Products Association (MPA) published its second mineral planning survey today. It found that at the end of October 2013, only 51 out of 100 mineral planning authorities in England had an adopted core strategy.

The survey said the position with other development plan documents in England, such as site allocations and development management policies (where not incorporated in core strategies), "is even more pronounced".

It said that only 25 per cent of such documents are projected to be adopted by the end of 2013 and by 2016 this will rise to only 44 per cent. Of the remainder in 34 cases, the report said, there is no information about authorities’ intentions regarding minerals, whilst a further 22 have no intention of producing other documents.

The survey also found that planning decisions were taking longer than previously and that pre-application discussions did nothing to shorten decision times. 

The slow speed of the planning system is threatening the capacity of the aggregates industry to meet future demand for construction material, the MPA said.

MPA chief executive Nigel Jackson said: "The performance of the plan-led system has been extremely disappointing in spite of recent changes.

"The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Planning Inspectorate need to step up their monitoring and put pressure on local authorities to ensure that the plan-making system is more streamlined and responsive.

"There will be significant future aggregates demands as economic recovery continues and major infrastructure projects commence."

DCLG has recently introduced the "special measures" procedure in order to speed up planning decisions. Under this measure, developers can choose to submit applications directly to the Planning Inspectorate if the local planning authority has determined fewer than 30 per cent of major applications between July 2011 and June 2013 within 13 weeks.

One fifth of councils charged with determining minerals applications are under threat of this designation. However, earlier this month the DCLG announced a six-month delay in confirming designations, due to complaints from mineral planning authorities over its data.

No-one from the Planning Officers’ Society was available for comment at the time of going to press.

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