More consultation on minerals

More consultation on minerals

The South East Regional Assembly has recently consulted on modifications to its Minerals Strategy

REGION: South East England Regional Assembly has recently consulted on modifications to its Minerals Core Strategy. At present the amount of sand and gravel the Government requires the South East to provide is divided amongst the counties on the basis of past sales.

It is recognised by all parties that this is a crude and unsatisfactory method. Consequently, six alternative approaches have been developed, three of which the Assembly has selected for consultation. These are based on “demand” (looking at the existing population distribution and future growth), “environmental” (with the emphasis on national environmental designations including AONB, nature and heritage sites) and thirdly “demand and resources” (which takes into account reserves in areas which are unsterilised by development, plus international nature designations).

All three approaches are better for Surrey than the existing allocation based on sales, but on balance we have opted for the second, environment-based approach. Whereas previously Surrey had to contribute 19.77% of the region’s sand and gravel, with the environmental approach this would fall to 8.99%, with the “demand and resource” to 10.77% and to 12.33% with the “demand” option.

Taking into account a reduced Government guideline requirement for the South East Region of 12.18 million tonnes per annum compared with the existing 13.25 metric tonnes per annum, this results in a significant fall in Surrey’s required production whichever of the 3 options is selected – very good news for many of those affected by quarrying.

COUNTY: Immediately prior to the Regional Assembly’s proposals, Surrey County Council consulted on modifications to its draft Minerals Plan. Unfortunately, although it was known that the allocation for the County would fall, it was not known by how much.

The County already had accepted that it needed to lengthen the time span of its Plan and so rather than delete some of the locations previously identified for quarrying, because of the reduced allocation, it is proposing to keep all the sites, (other than one in a reservoir) but extend the Plan period. CPRE Surrey appreciates the need to extend the Plan from 2016 to 2020 or 2026 but considers that there is still scope to delete the more sensitive sites for both soft and sharp sand.

There is a problem with specifying sites for silica sand. Of the three potential sites, one at Shagbrook is discounted because of impact on the water table and potential harm to nearby Reigate Heath. Another near Nutfield Marsh has access problems and the area is suffering from both a current waste disposal site and previous disturbance from extensive sand extraction. This leaves only Pendell Farm near Bletchingley. This would involve an extension of the North Park Farm quarry where there are currently unresolved problems of dust and nuisance.

We accept that the Pendell Farm site is probably the best site in the circumstances, although there is evidence that the market for silica sand has fallen in recent years. The site is partly in the AONB, is close to a school and conservation area and will also have nature conservation implications. Consequently, very careful consideration will have to be given to the boundaries of the actual quarry working and how the quality of the area and amenities of nearby buildings can be protected.

The Plan also considers potential extensions to clay works in the southern part of the County. Unfortunately, the Plan is not specific on exactly where future workings will take place and so several adjacent areas will be blighted.

We do not yet know the outcome of these two consultation exercises. Although the likely reduction in Surrey’s sand and gravel allocation is welcomed, there will still be environmental harm resulting from several of the sites which will probably be included in the draft Surrey Minerals Plan. The County Council’s “Examination in Public” will certainly be a lively event!

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