The Guide to Careers in Planning 2008-09 - Breaking ground

In a world where finite resources are becoming scarcer and more expensive, minerals and waste planners have an increasingly important role in ensuring that they are used most effectively.

It's no coincidence that these two areas of planning practice are often grouped together. "It used to be that you dug a hole and then filled it in," explains John Salmon, director of specialist consultancy Land & Mineral Management. But as constraints tighten, minerals and waste planning are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Unlike other branches of planning, nearly all the schemes that crop up in this field are strategic and large in scale. "It's very likely that minerals and waste applications will go to public inquiry," says Martin Hooker, who chairs the South Wales regional aggregates working party.

The specialised nature of minerals and waste planning means that most local authority practitioners prepare forward plans as well as processing applications. Waste planning in particular is being transformed by a sea change in the way society views refuse. Councils and ministers are under intense pressure to meet government and European targets to cut the amount of rubbish going to landfill by 2010.

"A lot of new infrastructure needs to be put in because we are moving from landfill to new techniques. Compared with people working in housing and retail, we are at the forefront of innovation," says Mark Kelly, director of planning consultancy Alliance Planning's Guildford office.

As a result, the waste planning is becoming more of a challenge. New facilities from composting and recycling plants to waste-to-energy incinerators are being developed to cut the amount of rubbish being dumped. "It's getting more technical and there are more methods for dealing with waste," says Salmon.

Minerals planning also faces major changes as a result of escalating commodities prices and higher environmental standards. Operators have become adept at fitting developments into even the most treasured environments through careful planning and tighter site controls.

But in addition to meeting demand, mineral operators have to take on board the need to restore the sites they want to work. This requires sensitive planning if approval is to be won. "If you don't get the restoration scheme right, you won't get planning permission. You have to look ahead," says Salmon.

PROFILE - KIRSTEN BERRY, Principal consultant, ERM

Kirsten Berry leads the minerals and waste planning practice at consultants ERM, delivering high-quality advice and support to clients. "Minerals and waste management underpins delivery of all other development," she says. Berry studied planning at Oxford Brookes University and worked as a minerals and waste planner at Oxfordshire County Council before joining ERM. She has co-authored national guidance on waste planning and led production of Surrey's waste plan. Berry's tasks range from high-profile public inquiries and waste management infrastructure to drafting conditions. She aims to expand her team to work on international projects.

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