The Topic Group have recently responded to a consultation paper published by DEFRA on the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund Third Objective. The main proposals of the paper, which is concerned with the distribution of monies from the fund and who will deliver the funds, is the new system of distribution through the top 10-15 producing Mineral Planning Authority areas. The Topic Group recognised that not all areas would receive funds from this proposal to help reduce the impact of quarrying on local communities, but in the absence of other agreed solutions it was likely to be the most appropriate. The Topic Group thought that MPAs were well equipped to deal with the administration of such funding streams.
The proposal to separate out the funds between the new Integrated Agency on the legacy of mineral extraction and the Mineral Planning Authorities on the providing compensation to local communities was not supported. This separation was felt to be artificial and that MPAs were capable of dealing with both aspects.
The Topic Group has raised concerns about the ability of the Planning Inspectorate to provide a service to all local authorities on the public examination of local development documents over the next 3 years. It was felt that this would lead to problems in timetabling for the authorities and therefore their ability to be realistic about the delivery dates for the various documents through the new local development schemes. It was a clear that the completion of local development frameworks by March 2007 was totally unrealistic. In the case of minerals and waste where there were already staff shortages the problem of securing early delivery of the new development framework was even more acute.
The Topic Group has also written to the Information Commissioner’s Office about the requirement to release information regarding pre-application consultations. The consultations may involve discussions on commercially sensitive or confidential information which may or may not lead to the submission of a planning application. Applicants may therefore decide not to enter into discussions prior to submission of their proposals.