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3 December 2009

Planning System Will Slow Economic Recovery Says MPA

The Mineral Products Association (MPA) says that failures in the current planning system are likely to inhibit the recovery of the development and construction industry and the mineral products sector upon which they rely.

The ‘plan led’ system in England is no longer fit for purpose and has failed to deliver the certainty that was promised. In the minerals sector less than 20 of the new-style minerals development plan documents have been completed out of an estimated 200 plus that will be needed to give full coverage.

Simon van der Byl, Executive Director of MPA, said, “What is needed is a system that ensures all concerns are dealt with proportionately, fairly and speedily.  With so much cumulative under-build in housing and so much of our infrastructure still in need of repair or upgrading, let alone the need for new energy capacity and flood protection, something has to change and fast. The recovery will only be as good as our planning system allows it to be.

“A knock on consequence is that the annual replenishment rate for aggregates – materials essential to construction and maintenance – are typically only 60%, raising the prospects of localised supply shortfalls as construction activity picks up from mid 2010.”   

With Government’s imperative to deliver new housing and mitigate climate change, it is now absolutely vital that there are no unreasonable barriers to construction and that the planning system is responsive to meet the future demands of the economy.

MPA is also concerned about Opposition plans to abolish regional planning and introduce more ‘local’ control over development, which it fears will encourage ‘parochialism’ and only make matters worse. Removing regional considerations will simply give local authorities more freedom to turn down proposals without having to take proper account of the consequences nationally or regionally.

The organisation is calling for recognition of the hold-ups and the need to formulate an improvement plan.

This could mean interim measures and guidance will be required to free up the current system from too much iterative appraisal process and hard targets issued to planning authorities and the planning inspectorate to deliver shorter, simpler plans by an agreed target date to support the economic recovery and not inhibit it.

“It’s bad enough trying to keep construction buoyant in this recession,” said Nigel Jackson, Chief Executive of MPA, speaking on behalf of the mineral products industry, “Now we’re having to deal with a development plan system which, far from improving things, is proving to be a burden for everyone involved with it and acting as drag on the recovery.  The lack of certainty created by the current system coupled with the cost can act as a discouragement to developers to submit applications particularly in the current economic environment.  By the time the recovery takes hold an in built inertia will inevitably slow things down.

“We’ve given the changes a chance to bed in but they’re just not working. In fact with all the legal challenges and general nervousness about the system, there’s no doubt that it’s getting worse.” 


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