Page 2: Planning and development
In 1994 there were 1300 quarries and pits ranging from small sand pits producing a few thousand tonnes per annum to super quarries producing many millions of tonnes a year. In the same year there were 1150 ready mixed concrete plants and 350 coating plants.
In 1995, 240 million tonnes of aggregate were produced of which 149 million tonnes were crushed rock and 91 million tonnes of sand and gravel. 10% of total demand is met from recycled and secondary sources; a figure which is set to double over the next decade. (60% of all demolition materials and construction wastes are recycled). The area of land with planning permission for mineral extraction amounts to about 0.35% of the total land area of Great Britain; however, at any one time less than half of this figure would actually be worked. By way of comparison 12% of the land area is taken by urban areas.
- Review - The planning system is rooted in government policy and is controlled centrally for England and Wales by the Secretary of State for the Environment. Consequently, government policy is paramount in the making of planning decisions. The system is primarily operated and administered by local planning authorities (e.g. District and County Councils) which decide whether a proposed development, such as mineral working, may proceed. All applications for planning permission are submitted to the local planning authority.
- Business development - In order to maintain its business, the company needs to keep its “reserves” of minerals with planning permission under constant review. Allied to this, ongoing investigations are undertaken to determine areas from which additional reserves may be gained. Often, where the geological conditions permit, extensions to existing quarry operations are considered in the first instance. In other instances new “green field” sites are studied either as replacements or as a means to expand business activities.
- Environmental assessment - This is a formal technique for ensuring that the likely effects of new developments on the environment are fully understood and taken into account. It has been incorporated into the planning procedures for certain major projects in the UK to implement an EU Directive, which came into force in 1988 and was given legal effect in England and Wales through the Town and County Planning (Assessment of Environmental Effect) Regulations in 1988.Larger mineral development projects and those within environmentally sensitive areas (e.g. National Parks) are required to be the subject of environmental assessment. This approach provides a better basis for decision making. For RMC, the process serves to highlight the environmental effects of a project or, if necessary, where remedial or mitigating measures need to be adopted within the proposals for development. Where formal environmental assessment procedures are not required, environmental effects are still addressed in full since they are taken into account by the planning authority.
- Sustainability - A guiding principle of current government planning policy is to provide for development and growth to be sustainable. Quarrying operations are designed to minimise impacts on the environment while they are active and must work to a restoration objective. When quarrying ceases at a particular location, the site is landscaped and restored, then returned typically to countryside use. To understand the issues involved in quarrying, three case studies highlight specific aspects that RMC has had to consider in its applications to extract minerals.