Policy MP3: Borrow pits

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Comment

Preferred Options consultation document

Representation ID: 98870

Received: 30/10/2019

Respondent: Essex County Council

Representation:

The requirement for a borrow pit to be capable of being accessed from the construction project site either directly or via a short length of suitable highway is considered to be unduly restrictive and may unduly fetter the development management process. Further, rather than stipulating that the borrow pit must be worked and restored by the completion of the related construction project, it may be more appropriate to request that a restoration scheme is agreed as part of the construction project in order to potentially increase the scope for beneficial after-uses. The remaining provisions are supported.

Full text:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Norfolk Minerals & Waste Local Plan Preferred Options, July 2019.

Essex County Council acting as the Minerals and Waste Planning Authority would like to make the following comments:

Vision
The intention for Norfolk to be self-sufficient in sand and gravel production and waste management, where practicable, is supported. The continuing recognition that Norfolk is an important supplier at the national level of silica sand is also welcomed, as is the acknowledgement of the need to safeguard minerals and waste infrastructure.

The current Vision seeks to avoid 'unacceptable adverse impacts on the amenity of local communities, the natural, built and historic environment, the landscape and townscape of Norfolk. Opportunities to enhance such features will be supported.' The intention is supported but it is noted that the Government have mandated that new development should result in net biodiversity gain. It is considered that this should be bought out within the Vision and/or the Strategic Objectives, as well as relevant policy.

Mineral Strategic Objectives - MSO1
It is considered that MSO1 would benefit from being re-drafted to mirror the drafting of MSO2. The stated aim of MSO1 is (inter-alia) 'To provide a steady and adequate supply of aggregate ... sufficient to meet the requirements of the Local Aggregate Assessment'. The Local Aggregate Assessment is a reporting and forecasting tool and therefore does not strictly contain a specific 'requirement'. MSO2 refers to the intention 'To provide a steady and adequate supply of industrial minerals...sufficient to meet the forecast need'. It is considered that MSO1 would benefit from being redrafted to also reflect the intention to meet a forecasted need. A supporting reference could set out that the LAA assists in the establishment of need forecasts.

General Policies
Policy MW3 - Transport
The plan makers may wish to consider including a hierarchy of preference for transportation routes to ensure that site promoters are required to expressly consider the most sustainable route to the nearest Principal Road or Main Distributor Road. This may aid in ensuring that applications demonstrate adherence to the provisions of Paragraph 9.5, Paragraph 9.6 and Paragraph W2.1b

Waste Specific Policies
Paragraph W0.5 - The paragraph references Article 16 of the Waste Framework Directive with regard to what is expected for compliance with the proximity principle
and self-sufficiency with respect to waste management. The Plan makers may wish to consider PPG Paragraph: 007 Reference ID: 28-007-20141016 as a secondary or replacement reference as this defines expectations for the same as they relate to waste planning authorities rather than Member States. It is recognised that the appropriateness of substituting the reference is tempered by the fact that the PPG is not strictly policy.

Policy WP1 - Waste management capacity to be provided
The methodologies used to forecast future waste need are considered to be appropriate. The current preferred approach of basing LACW growth on the growth profile set out in the Norfolk SHMA rather than that published by the ONS is supported, as is the utilisation of a locally derived figure for forecasting the need for C&I capacity over the plan period.
The approach to forecasting the future need of hazardous waste management facilities is acknowledged. Forecasting a reduction in need appears appropriate given the reduction in this type of waste that has been managed in the Plan area. However, as with any reduction in forecasted need, it is expected that robust monitoring of the accuracy of these forecasts will be carried out. It is also unclear from the information presented in the Waste Management Capacity Assessment 2017 why an annual reduction in hazardous waste arising of 6.6% has been selected over any other potential figure.

Paragraph W2.1 - The spatial strategy supporting text may benefit from recognising that a number of waste management facilities can be co-located to offer synergistic benefits. The paragraph should also recognise that particular waste management facilities will have locational requirements which restrict where they can be effectively located. This is already recognised in Policy WP2 and Section W3 and therefore it would be appropriate to include the recognition for locational requirements in the factors considered under this paragraph.

Policy WP2: Spatial Strategy for waste management facilities
The requirement for new or enhanced waste management facilities to be located within five miles of one of Norfolk's urban areas or three miles of one of the main towns is considered to be arbitrary and the appropriateness of this is questioned. The primary concern should be whether the site is near to the waste source. Economics will in any event restrict the distance a facility could be located from potential sources of waste material.

Paragraph W3.3 - A distinction could be made between strategic / permanent aggregate recycling facilities and those temporary aggregate recycling facilities which are commonly co-located with active mineral workings. This distinction is already recognised in Policy WP3 so could be mentioned within the supporting text.

Paragraph W4.1 - The following text could be inserted to qualify that recycled aggregate cannot always be used as a direct substitute for primary aggregate - 'Whilst the resultant material is typically lower grade, recycled inert material can still often act as a substitute for freshly excavated material.' In the same vein, it could be noted in a relevant part of the Plan that marine-won aggregate cannot always be used as a direct substitute for land-won aggregate.

Policy WP3 - Land potentially suitable for waste management facilities
Whilst it is recognised that the intentions behind Policy WP7 are positive, it is not considered appropriate to establish caveats for Council operated sites that do not apply to the full range of potential waste management facilities that the county may require. It is considered that Policy WP3 should be amended to include text along the following theme (wording amended from Policy WP7 - "Where sufficient information is submitted to demonstrate that no suitable sites consistent with Policy WP3 are available within the area to be served by the waste management facility, the development of a waste management facility may be acceptable on other sites provided there is an established need for the facility and the proposal is consistent with the development management criteria set out in Policy MW2 and the wider Development Plan."

Policy WP7 - Household Waste Recycling Centres
Whilst it is recognised that the intentions behind Policy WP7 are positive, it is not considered appropriate to establish caveats for Council operated sites that do not apply to the full range of potential waste management facilities that the county may require.

Policy WP17 - Safeguarded waste management facilities
The proposed approach is supported although it is considered that the operation of this policy would be significantly improved by delineating, by way of an appendix referred to in the policy, the nature of evidence that would be required to be submitted alongside a non-waste application such that the County Council could be satisfied that the proposed development would not impact on the operation of the current or future waste management facility.

It is also considered that the plan makers consider including extending safeguarding provisions to sites allocated for a waste use. Whilst it is noted that the current version of the emerging Plan includes no such waste allocations, this stance may change in the future, and the inclusion of 'allocated sites' in the policy wording at this juncture may future-proof the policy.

Mineral Specific Policies
Sand and gravel requirements and shortfall
The intention to provide aggregate above both the ten year and three year rolling averages is supported in recognition of the fact that the last three years of sales demonstrate an upward trend and that the ten year rolling average would fail to satisfy the last four years of production. It is agreed that sales over the last ten years have been significantly lower than the figure presented in the sub-national guidelines although it is further noted that sales prior to the recession were noticeably closer to the figure presented in the guidelines.

The argument of basing sand and gravel provision on a 20 year sale average is however questioned. The 20 year period is considered to 'take into account potential fluctuations in the economy' (Para MP1.6) whereas the Norfolk LAA 2017/18 states (Section 6.2) that 'modern methods of construction use considerably less aggregate than methods used in previous decades, and this decline in the intensity of aggregate use has been a continuing trend over a number of years.' This LAA statement brings into question the appropriateness of using 20 year old figures and appears to contradict the appropriateness of doing so as advocated by the Norfolk MWLP Paragraph MP1.6.

Notwithstanding the above, the 20 year sand and gravel production average equates to approximately 85% of current production. Whilst it is recognised that a direct parallel cannot be made, it is considered that the appropriateness of the 20 year production average figure needs to be justified, in qualitative terms, on the basis of both current rates of production / development in Norfolk and future rates of development. This assessment should also consider demand from significant projects such as the relatively proximate Sizewell C nuclear facility.

To clarify, ECC is not necessarily objecting to the annualised production figure that equates to the 20 year rolling sales average, but considers that this figure needs to be more robustly justified in the context of a comparison of current and future needs rather than that the figure simply equating to 20 years of rolling sales.
The intention to not offset the need for primary allocations with an assumed contribution from recycled and marine-won aggregate is supported.

Paragraph MP1.10 - The appropriateness of basing silica sand supply on an annual production figure of 750,000 is not understood on the basis of this figure failing to meet the three-year sales average since 2013. As noted in the Norfolk LAA 2017/18, Norfolk is a significant national supplier of silica sand and it is considered that the proposed annual production figure may represent under-provision.

Policy MP1 - Provision for mineral extraction
The over-arching principles of Policy MP1 are supported although the appropriateness of the need figures for sand and gravel and silica sand are questioned on the basis of the representations made with regard to the 'sand and gravel requirements and shortfall' section and Paragraph MP1.10.

Defining Areas of Search (for Silica Sand) and Policy MP2 - Spatial Strategy for mineral extraction
It is considered that Areas of Search should not be limited by factors that would not amount to show-stoppers for mineral working itself. For example, as a temporary land use, mineral extraction is not considered to have the same impact on heritage assets and their setting as more permanent forms of development. Mineral extraction may even present opportunities to improve the setting of heritage assets in the long-term through sympathetic restoration. As such, it is considered that Areas of Search should be re-defined to include all relevant land where mineral extraction could theoretically be permitted.

The requirement for all sites to be within five miles of one of Norfolk's urban areas or three miles of one of the main towns is considered to be arbitrary. It is questioned how much land otherwise suitable for mineral extraction would be lost through not conforming to this requirement.

Policy MP3 - Borrow Pits
The requirement for a borrow pit to be capable of being accessed from the construction project site either directly or via a short length of suitable highway is considered to be unduly restrictive and may unduly fetter the development management process. Further, rather than stipulating that the borrow pit must be worked and restored by the completion of the related construction project, it may be more appropriate to request that a restoration scheme is agreed as part of the construction project in order to potentially increase the scope for beneficial after-uses. The remaining provisions are supported.

Paragraph MP11.6 - This paragraph states that 'To ensure that the Mineral Safeguarding Areas are proportionate, the area covered by the MSA will include only those deposits which are most likely to be commercially viable.' On this point, it is noted that the aim of safeguarding mineral is to protect the mineral to allow its future use, which may be some way into the future. What is considered 'most likely to be commercially viable' may well change in the future. On that basis, it is considered more appropriate to safeguard the whole sand and gravel resource and apply a threshold above which planning applications within an MSA will be subject to safeguarding policy. . It is suggested that the plan makers consider the provisions of the POS/MPA Minerals Safeguarding Practice Guidance in relation to this issue.

Policy MP10: safeguarding of port and rail facilities, and facilities for the manufacture of concrete, asphalt and recycled materials and Policy MP11: Minerals Safeguarding Areas and Minerals Consultation Areas
The proposed policy approaches are supported although it is considered that the operation of these policies would be significantly improved by delineating, by way of an appendix referred to in each policy, the nature of evidence that would be required to be submitted alongside a non-mineral application such that the County Council could be satisfied that the proposed development would not have a detrimental impact on existing or allocated sites for mineral development. It is suggested that the plan makers consider the provisions of the POS/MPA Minerals Safeguarding Practice Guidance as a basis for the type of information that should inform the relevant assessments.