Claire Potts, the Minerals and Waste Manager at the South Downs National Park Authority, has recently written to Bepton Parish Council, and others, with an update on the West Sussex Minerals Local Plan.
The text of the letter is as follows:
“West Sussex County Council and the South Downs National Park Authority are working in partnership to prepare a new Joint Minerals Local Plan for West Sussex to replace the existing Minerals Local Plan (2003).
The Plan will set a strategy for mineral development up to 2033, safeguard mineral resources, and include a range of policies to manage future mineral development. For example, considering the impact of mineral development on the landscape, road network and on the amenity of local communities. The Plan will also allocate sites for the production of minerals, which is important for giving both communities and the minerals industry certainty about where mineral development may take place.
Work to date includes:
producing and consulting on series of background papers, setting out the issues and challenges that the Plan seeks to address;
a ‘call for sites’ and search for potential mineral sites;
compiling and consulting on a Mineral Sites Study (MSS) looking at each proposed site;
an assessment of need for aggregates (minerals used in construction) (also called a Local Aggregate Assessment or LAA); and
commissioning further evidence to support the Plan, for example a Wharves and Railheads Study and Soft & Silica Sand Study.
What’s happening now?
The potential mineral sites published in the Mineral Sites Study Version 2 (March 2015) are undergoing more detailed technical assessments, looking at landscape, transport, flood risk, habitat and sustainability. This process helps to identify potential impacts and how they could be mitigated and, ultimately, whether there are any overriding issues that would make a site unsuitable for mineral activities.
Further work is also being undertaken to improve the assessment of future need for minerals.
The site assessment work will determine whether a site is suitable in principle; i.e. there are no overriding issues which cannot be satisfactorily mitigated in line with national planning policy. However, not all potential mineral sites will be needed and only those suitable sites that are actually needed to meet the assessed need for minerals will be proposed for allocation in the draft Plan.
The assessment of potential mineral sites is just one part of the Plan-making process and over the coming months we will bring together all of the evidence as we develop and appraise the options for planning for minerals across the County, taking into account the special qualities of the South Downs National Park.
Other evidence work
Mineral working within the National Park is considered major development and national policy states that major development within designated landscapes, such as national parks, should be refused unless there are exceptional circumstances and it is in the public interest. To help determine if there are any exceptional circumstances, which means that it would be in the public interest to allocate sites for further mineral working in the National Park, we have commissioned a study into soft and silica sand in the area. The evidence from this study (combined with previous evidence from 2012) will be used to inform the Plan’s approach to mineral resources in the National Park and will be published alongside the draft Plan.
A Strategic Stone Study has now been completed for West Sussex which will help the authorities to identify the most important building stones used in the County and the location of quarries that produced the stones. The Study was led by Historic England, working with the British Geological Survey, South Downs National Park Authority and local geologists and historic buildings experts. A written account of the findings is contained within an illustrated Atlas (West Sussex Building Stone Atlas http://www.bgs.ac.uk/mineralsuk/buildingStones/StrategicStoneStudy/… ).”
WSCC/SDNPA will be publishing the draft Joint Minerals Local Plan for public consultation in early 2016.
To receive updates on the emerging plan and forthcoming consultations contact the Minerals and Waste Policy Team at WSCC by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or at Strategic Planning, West Sussex County Council, County Hall, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 1RH to be added to their stakeholder engagement database