New threat to Anti Opencast Mine CampaignersTagged as: economic_crisis environmentalism
Neighbourhoods: mines opencast planning
In our new press release "Are we the next to be labelled 'A Barrier to Enterprise' "(PR 101) links the publication of our latest Briefing Note "Energy Policy and the proposed National Planning Policy Framework" (E2) to what the Prime Minister said in Cardiff yesterday to conclude that the outcome predicted in "Energy Policy and the proposed National Planning Policy Framework" that rules governing the approval of opencast mines predicted in E2 is now even more likely.
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MOPG PR 101 7/3/11
ARE WE THE NEXT TO BE LABELED AS A ‘BARRIER TO ENTERPRISE’?
In collecting new evidence which might affect the outcome not only of the Minorca Opencast Mine Application, but all future opencast mine applications, campaigners it seems, have unwittingly stumbled into a major political controversy. Proposed changes in planning policy, which could make it easier not only for UK Coal plc to be successful with their plans for the Minorca site, but provide assistance for all English opencast mine applicants in the future, seemed to be central to the Prime Minister’s implication that, following current rules and procedures by which such planning applications were assessed, were proving to be a ‘Barrier to Enterprise’ (1)
This is because research undertaken for the Minorca Opencast Protest Group arising from the unsuccessful attempt to introduce a mandatory 500m Buffer Zone in England with Andrew Bridgen’s Private Member’s Bill. reveals that Coal Producers like UK Coal plc have long nurtured plans to have the rules governing decisions about where to have opencast mines changed – and now, with the Conservative Government carrying out a root and branch reform of planning policy, they are hopeful of decisively changing the rules in their favour.
In his latest Briefing Note (E2) “Energy Policy and the proposed National Planning Policy Framework and the Minorca Application,” Steve Leary a member of the Minorca Opencast Protest Group details how the current planning policy, which treats applications for opencast coal mines as a special case, is now under threat especially in light of the Prime Minister’s speech made at the Conservative Spring Forum Conference yesterday.
Currently coal mining proposals are different from other mineral extraction proposals, because the assumption behind assessing such planning applications is that, unless certain conditions are met, there is a presumption against approving each planning application.
Planning applications for other minerals are not treated in this way. The Briefing Note goes on to explain how organisations which UK Coal plc belongs too, the Coal Producers Association (CoalPro) and the Confederation of British Industries (CBI) have been lobbying successive Governments with a view to getting the rules affecting coal mining applications relaxed.
They now believe they have a chance. Andrew Stunell, the Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in giving reasons why the Government could not support the 500m Buffer Zone Bill and why planning for Minerals was not part of the ‘Localism’ Bill said
“Yes, I can. It is because minerals extraction will form part of the national planning policy framework.”
The new research for MOPG reveals that if the lobbying for relaxing the rules is successful, that those opposing such applications may find themselves in a worse position than the current one. This is because the proposed National Planning Policy Framework could well indicate that coal was a mineral of ‘national strategic importance’ and that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government could then set a target for national coal production, which those companies applying for new opencast mines could cite as a powerful reason for the granting of new planning permissions.
The Prime Minister’s speech yesterday could be a further indication that this change is more likely, especially as those involved with assessing such planning applications were singled out as being a ‘Barrier to Enterprise’ when he said that it was
“Because for over a decade in this country the enemies of enterprise have had their way. Taxing. Regulating. Smothering. Crushing. Getting in the way.”
“So I can announce today that we are taking on the enemies of enterprise. The bureaucrats in government departments who concoct those ridiculous rules and regulations that make life impossible, particularly for small firms. The town hall officials who take forever with those planning decisions that can be make or break for a business - and the investment and jobs that go with it.”
The Briefing Note concludes with the following statement
“ If the Minerals Industry are successful in their aims, and this new National Planning Policy Framework does state that coal is a strategically important national mineral and sit does set a target for coal production it will carry great weight if the final outcome of the Minorca Application and all future English opencast mine applications awaits a final determination.
If that was the case then expect Leicestershire County Council or a Planning Inspector if it has gone to Appeal, to approve not only this application, but any Application for an extension at the Minorca site as well.
THIS IS THAT SERIOUS AN ISSUE!!!”
Copies of the Briefing Note “Energy Policy and the proposed National Planning Policy Framework” (E2) are free to download from:
The Government is due to publish a draft statement on the National Planning Policy Framework in the summer and a further round of consultation on the Framework will follow involving the House of Commons Select Committee on Communities and Local Government.
Terry Morrell, MOPG’s Chairperson said
“After the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday that the Government wanted to ‘take on’ the ‘Enemies of Enterprise’.We fear that although we have legitimate grounds on which to object to this Application, we too will soon be labelled a ‘Barrier to Enterprise’
We want to make it clear that Planning Officers at Leicestershire County Council do not as far as we know, delay complex planning applications such as those for new opencast mine sites. Admittedly it does take a long time to process such applications and Authorities such as Leicestershire County Council are dependent on other statutory agencies as well as the Applicant forwarding information that can help the Council reach a conclusion. Often, this is what causes the delay. We would also like to put on record our appreciation on the way Officers of the Council have responded to our enquiries and requests for information over the Minorca Surface Mine Application.
However, simplifying the system and making it quicker, cheaper and easier for Applicants to gain approval as part of an attack on ‘Barriers to Enterprise’ risks throwing out the baby with bathwater and leaving local people with less opportunity to successfully oppose new opencast mine applications.
All of us who are currently opposing opencast mine here and elsewhere In England should take this threat very seriously. There will be an opportunity to comment on a draft of the National Planning Policy Framework which we, the Minorca Opencast Protest Group, will take advantage of and we urge other groups and persons opposed to opencast mining to also comment on the draft proposals, if it is proposed to change the rules about opencast mine applications.
Steve Leary is quite right to draw our attention to this new threat which could, in our view, significantly weaken our case against the Minorca Surface Mine Application if the issue is still outstanding when the proposed National Planning Policy Framework comes into force. If this includes coal becoming a ‘mineral of national importance’ and the Framework becomes policy before the outcome of the Minorca Surface mine is finally determined then this will be a black day for all groups such as ours opposing opencast mine applications.
MOPG will be circulating this Briefing Note to other protest groups, the MP’s in the House of Commons dealing with the Committee Stage of the Localism Bill, the members of the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government and those members of the House of Commons who spoke in support of the 2nd reading of the 500m Buffer Zone Debate.
Can I also take this opportunity to publically thank Steve Leary for all the efforts he has made to keep this campaign going over the last three and a half years? He has announced that he has retired from some of the more prominent roles he has played for MOPG for personal reasons, but this new Briefing Note is evidence that he will still be providing us with crucial information about how we can best defeat this application. “
1) “Building a Better Future”, Speech by the Prime Minister David Cameron, Conservative Spring Forum 2010 Conference @
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PRESS RELEASE CONTACT:
TERRY MORRELL, CHAIRPERSON, THE MINORCA OPENCAST PROTEST GROUP
tel 01530 810319 or 07988697554
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