'. —(1) In this section and Schedule (Registration of old mining permissions) to this Act, "old mining permission" means any planning permission for development—
(3) If no such development has, at any time in the period of two years ending with 1st May 1991, been carried out to any substantial extent anywhere in, on or under the land to which an old mining permission relates, that permission shall not authorise any such development to be carried out at any time after the coming into force of this section unless—
(4) An old mining permission shall—
(5) An old mining permission shall, if—
(6) Subject to subsection (3) above, this section—
With this it will be convenient to consider the following: Government new clauses Nos. 8 and 15.
The subject of interim development order permissions for mineral working has been debated several times during the passage of the Bill, and I announced on 1 May my intention to table amendments to deal with the problems of absence of records, inadequate working and restoration conditions, and dormant sites. New clause 1 and amendment No. 1 give effect to those proposals—new clause 8 and amendment No. 104 make similar provision for Scotland.
First, they provide that land-owners or mineral owners with an IDO permission, who wish to apply to the mineral planning authority to have their permissions registered, must do so within six months of commencement of those provisions, or the permission will fall without compensation. Disputes about the validity of permissions will be determined by the Secretary of State. That will get the records straight and ensure that the extent and terms of IDO permissions are known.
Secondly, once it has been determined that there is a valid IDO permission, either by the mineral planning authority or by the Secretary of State on appeal, the holder must—within 12 months of that determination, or such longer period as may have been agreed with the mineral planning authority—submit a scheme of operating and restoration conditions for the MPA's approval or the permission will cease to have effect. That will get active sites up to standard.
In response to concerns expressed that the time period for registration and submission of schemes set out in our consultation paper was too short, we have provided for longer time periods and separated the two processes. There will be six months from commencement instead of four to submit applications for registration—as the time period is not public knowledge, applicants will have a much longer period—and a full year from the date the permission is registered for the submission of schemes. We have built in extra flexibility by providing that that period can be extended if the MPA agrees. That should provide a reasonable time for the industry to prepare itself and the flexibility to ensure that the system is not overloaded. I hope that that meets the concerns expressed in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie).
Thirdly, operations cannot recommence on dormant sites—sites where there has been no working to any substantial extent for two years preceding 1 May 1991—until the permission has been obtained as valid and a scheme of operating and restoration conditions has been approved. That is an important proposal. It meets many of the concerns that were expressed about the reactivation of IDO permissions on environmentally attractive sites.
There will be no compensation for the cost of complying with conditions imposed, but there is provision for appeal to the Secretary of State against the imposition of unreasonable conditions and for the Secretary of State to call in an application for his own determination. We shall issue full guidance on the preparation of schemes and model conditions, which we shall discuss with representatives of the industry and mineral planning authorities with a view to publishing draft guidance in September.
I know that the industry is concerned that those proposals could lead to the imposition of unreasonable conditions that would diminish asset values. I think that its fears are misplaced. Throughout, I have drawn a distinction between expropriation of the asset and working it in a way that meets modern conditions. When representatives of the British Aggregate Construction Materials Industries came to see me, they stressed that they already worked their sites to such standards. I conclude, therefore, that what we are asking the industry to do is not unreasonable. None the less, I can assure the industry that we shall have in mind the concerns that it has expressed.
For working sites, we shall advise the mineral planning authorities that they should draw a distinction between conditions that deal with the environmental and amenity aspects of working the site, which should not affect the asset value, and conditions that would fundamentally affect the economic structure of the operation. Conditions that would significantly affect the asset value would be more appropriate for MPA reviews under the provisions introduced by the Minerals Act 1981. We shall want to issue clear guidance and consult the industry on that matter.
The amendments will ensure that in a relatively short period the details of all valid IDO permissions will be known, that the permissions are brought up to acceptable standards and that dormant sites cannot be reactivated without warning or proper conditions. That will bring the IDOs within the embrace of a modern planning system.
I apologise for allowing my hon. Friend to complete dealing with compensation before interrupting him. It is rather novel for a Conservative Government to say that constraints should be placed on private property—whether it is owned by a company is immaterial—without offering any compensation. My hon. Friend will have to justify that to the House in clearer terms.
I understand my hon. Friend's concern, which was expressed by representatives of the industry. The key point is that the industry already claims that it is voluntarily operating its sites to modern working standards. Currently, IDOs are outside the planning system. We are asking the industry only to bring IDO permissions up to modern standards. If it is an environmentally responsible industry, already working to those standards, there is no need to compensate it.
I draw a distinction between conditions that deal with the environmental and amenity aspects of working the site, which would not affect the asset value and where compensation does not arise, and conditions that the mineral planning authority might want to impose, which would affect the economic structure of the operation. It will not be able to use the provisions before the House to impose conditions that fundamentally affect the economic structure of the operation. I hope that my hon. Friend agrees that that should meet the industry's major concern.
As was made clear in response to the consultation exercise on IDOs and in debates in Committee, permissions for mineral working granted in the 1950s and 1960s may have conditions attached that fail to meet today's standards. Opposition Members have tabled an amendment to the proposed schedule on IDOs that seeks to prevent development from recommencing at any mineral site where permission was granted before 1965 and that has been inactive for five years until the environmental effects of the development have been assessed and new conditions agreed with the mineral planning authority. That amendment is identical to an amendment that we debated in Committee. I explained then that it is important to distinguish between IDO permissions, which were originally granted prior to the introduction of a comprehensive planning system in 1948, and permissions granted thereafter.
New clause 1 and amendment No. 1 address the immediate problem of bringing IDO permissions up to scratch, and as I have already said, we have provided that sites that have been inactive for two years—rather than the five years for which the Opposition amendment would provide—cannot be reactivated until a scheme of conditions has been approved by the MPA. Clearly, the preparation and approval of those conditions should have regard to the potential environmental effects of working the site, and we shall make that clear in the guidance that we issue.
As regards permissions granted in the 1950s and 1960s —or, indeed any mineral permissions which are now unsatisfactory—MPAs have existing powers to take action, including powers to prohibit the resumption of mineral working where a site has been inactive for several years. They have a duty to review mineral working sites in their area and to make such orders as they consider appropriate, updating those sites to modern standards. However, there is no time limit on the reviews, and orders can give rise to compensation, and progress has not been so fast as we would have hoped.
We therefore announced in the environment White paper our intention to review the mineral planning authorities' existing powers to take action to see whether any changes are necessary. That review is under way and that is the right place to consider the problems of 1950s and 1960s permissions, whether active or dormant. We shall consult on our proposals next year. I assure the House that we attach high priority to completing the review and we regard it as essential that any changes arising out of that review can be implemented quickly. We have tabled amendments to ensure that that can happen.
Amendments Nos. 2 to 6 provide a power for the Secretary of State to prescribe by order the periods in which MPAs must carry out their duty to review sites and the matters to be covered in such reviews. Amendments Nos. 72 to 75 make similar provision for Scotland.
Amendments Nos. 7 to 14 replace the existing powers on compensation in relation to winning and working, and those originally proposed in the Bill in relation to mineral waste, with a single order-making power to provide for the abatement of compensation, following orders updating permissions for the winning and working of minerals or the depositing of mineral waste. The amount of abatement and the circumstances in which compensation might be abated will be set out in the regulations themselves, which will be subject to consultation and affirmative resolution of both Houses. The existing provisions will be retained until the review has been completed and there has been consultation on any changes.
Amendment No. 2 and amendments Nos. 15 to 18 make consequential amendments to clause 20 and the repeals schedule, schedule 17. The amendments—which, as I have said, will enable our review to be implemented quickly—together with new clause 1 and amendment No. 1 on IDOs, represent a comprehensive package which shows the Government's commitment to raising environmental standards in the minerals industry. Taken together, they will ensure that there is a rigorous framework in place to enable all old minerals permissions to be brought up to an acceptable standard over the next decade. These are tough proposals, but I believe that they are in the long-term interests of the industry and local communities.
I think that we can agree that the Government are definitely moving in the right direction but, as the Minister will know from our debates in Committee, the Opposition are still convinced that more could be done to deal with this very serious problem.
The Government's proposals will clear up much of the confusion—even mystery—surrounding interim development orders and will enable mineral planning authorities to take steps to ensure that quarrying is carried out to higher standards. What is not, however, admitted, is that there are IDOs in connection with sites where quarrying ought not to take place at all. As a result, organisations such as the National Housing and Town Planning Council, the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales have all said that the Government have missed an opportunity to put right the really damaging consequences of IDOs hastily given in the 1940s.
Even with the Government's current review of quarrying in the United Kingdom and even with the best possible interpretation of the outcome of the Government's efforts to deal with this problem, 18 months to two years will pass, during which serious damage will continue to take place on many sites of special scientific interest in the United Kingdom. As a result, the homes of thousands of people will continue to be blighted. Their worst fears about the threat of quarrying on their doorsteps will be confirmed. As IDOs are registered, even more people may be shocked to find out that they live in the middle, or on the edge, of a site where quarrying permission has been granted.
In addition to this blighting of people's homes right across the country, there is the issue of the damage being done to hundreds of valuable wildlife habitats. They are being destroyed now, they will continue to be destroyed, and a process of destruction will begin in new areas while the Government decline to act, perhaps giving some impression and hope that eventually they will deal with the problem in the way that is necessary.
The Government will be familiar with the report "Losing Ground", drawn up by the Royal Society for Nature Conservation, which records that 17 sites of special scientific interest are threatened by IDO quarry workings, as well as three national nature reserves and an important wetland. They will know that across Britain, in a large number of counties, sites are threatened every day of the week. In Dyfed, there is the 90-acre Carmel woods site, a unique ancient Welsh woodland designated in 1989 as a site of special scientific interest. It has an IDO on it, and McAlpine is threatening to move on to the site. At Asham in Somerset, a 350-acre SSSI of grade 1 woodland is being destroyed. In Leicestershire, at Budden wood, Redland Aggregates has already destroyed most of the SSSI. I could go on to give a catalogue of valuable wildlife and nature habitats that are being destroyed while the Government consult and wonder what action they might take.
In addition to this destruction, there is also the matter of compensation, which is causing a great deal of vexation. Cheshire county council is in a difficult position over a wetland SSSI at Rixley clay pit. The council refused to give permission and faces a claim for £1·5 million compensation.
It is plain that mineral planning authorities, although they wish to preserve these special sites, simply cannot afford to pay the compensation demanded under existing legislation. It is no wonder that groups such as "Stop Quarrying Under Interim Development Orders", the Backup moors action group—in the constituency of one of the Minister's ministerial colleagues—the Asham and East Mendip action group and the Somerset branch of the CPRE are concerned. Across the country people are making representations to the Government emphasising the need for changes.
The Minister seemed to imply in his opening statement that we were perhaps precipitate in seeking an amendment to the Government's new clause that would allow proceedings to take place that would stop interim development orders going ahead without compensation. Although it is true that in some ways this is a new aspect of English law, in other ways it is not. If we look, for example, at improved standards of pollution control, we see that manufacturing companies often have to change their technology completely and invest huge amounts of money, or sometimes even close down altogether, because they cannot meet modern standards. They do not get any compensation when that happens. We are saying that, in certain specific circumstances, there is a case for arguing that, where a site does not meet modern environmental assessment standards, if the permission has not been taken up, it should be revoked; if it is an existing permission, an opportunity should be given to find out whether it can be worked properly: but there should be a time to stop.
Although this may be at least partially new in Britain, it is not a new concept in the European Community. This procedure has already taken place in Germany. I should like to read to the Minister a letter of 2 April this year from the German Economics Minister on the federal mining law, which was addressed to a Mr. Buxton in the United Kingdom. Mr. Buxton is involved in legal matters. The letter states:
In answer to the question raised in your letter of 2nd April 1991, I inform you as follows:
In the Federal Republic of Germany there is no financial support on the part of the Government or other public institutions for mining concerns for the recently introduced environmental desirability check of plans. Neither do mining concerns received any compensation if a business plan is not permitted, by reason of the law whether or not it is for environmental points or other requirements. The same applies as regards the withdrawal of mining consents.
Section 18 of the Mining Law and other items foresee that consents and approvals are to be withdrawn if after the events facts appear which would have led to refusal. So, if we acted, we would be doing something consonant with what already happens in other member states.
I appreciate that the Government are undertaking a consultation process at the moment. However, given the steps already taken, and if the Government recognise the seriousness of the damage being done to existing sites of special scientific interest and the blight already taking place on the homes of thousands of people, they should be prepared to act swiftly and accept our amendment.
The Minister presented the amendments cogently, but I hope that he will clarify a few matters, bearing in mind that many of the points contained in the new clause and its related amendments are in some ways wholly unprecedented in planning legislation, and that causes some concern.
Although I missed my hon. Friend's opening remarks in introducing the new clause, he referred to the consultation process, which I believe he estimated would be completed by September, and later he referred to consultation in the middle of 1992. Will he set out the precise nature of that consultation, its timing, the people who will be consulted and how it will move through the Association of County Councils, mineral planning authorities and users? It is crucial to know that at this stage, and my hon. Friend may wish to answer by writing to me in the wider notion.
I am raising some points on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding), who unfortunately cannot be here because she is serving on the Finance Bill Standing Committee. She has received a communication from a major employer in her constituency, and the Minister may have received representations from the National Federation of Clay Industries about the Government's proposals. A number of points have been raised and they must be clarified in view of the terms of the new clause. The company concerned is Steetley Building Products Limited, a major employer in my hon. Friend's constituency. Although it says, as do other members of the National Federation of Clay Industries, that it supports the principle of the registration of IDOs, it questions the time scale involved in the Government's proposals.
Under the Government's proposals, existing IDO permissions will be subject to potential restriction and the imposition of additional operating and restoration conditions without compensation. Does the Minister agree that the proposals are contrary to established principles of planning law and are potentially damaging to the asset values of permission-holders? Under the current proposals, the holders of IDO permissions must apply for registration of them within six months of the commencement of the Bill's provisions. Does the Minister accept that the proposal allows insufficient time for holders and the authorities to deal properly with the registration of an anticipated 1,200 permissions?
Under the Government's proposals, appeal against the decision on the validity or extent of IDO permissions will be to the Secretary of State. Does the Minister agree that such an appeal is a legal, not a planning, matter and should be determined by the Lands Tribunal or other competent body? The Secretary of State will be unable to cope with the likely volume of appeals, bearing in mind the number of planning appeals that are currently outstanding.
Under the Government's proposals, the holders of IDO permissions must submit a scheme of operating and restoration conditions for approval by the mineral planning authority within 12 months of registration. Does the Minister accept that 12 months is too short a period, having regard to the time and resources required to submit such plans and the capacity of the mineral planning authority to deal properly with the anticipated work load?
Under the Government's proposals, operations at a site where there has been no working to any substantial extent for the last two years, ending on 1 May 1991—in other words, dormant sites—cannot recommence until the permission has been registered and a scheme for operating and restoring has been agreed with the mineral planning authority.
Does the Minister agree that the definition of "dormant sites" must exclude marginal sites, which may not have been fully exploited since 1989 due to the recession and because of the cyclical nature of the industry, but which might be required for full production at short notice when demand increases?
In other words, the company and the national federation is suggesting that a longer time scale is needed to enable the industry to comply with the requirements, which it believes are environmentally correct and which it supports but which it feels are being implemented too quickly. I hope that, in his reply, the Minister will say whether he either accepts those points or is prepared to meet the national federation to discuss the matters that have been raised.
I agreed with all that the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) said, and in view of the new clause and large number of associated amendments, I need not delay the House for long. A large number of homes in Sussex have been blighted by quarrying, many beautiful sites are being destroyed and the effect on wildlife is considerable. I do not detect in the Bill the strength of measures that we need to cope with those problems.
My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), who is also serving on the Finance Bill Standing Committee, has asked me to raise his concern lest the new clause will not deal with a local problem that his constituents face at Druridge bay. Hon. Members who know that area will appreciate that it has a magnificent six or seven-mile coastline of high sand dunes. Old planning permissions granted by Ministers on appeal in the 1960s mean that sand will continue to be extracted from the beach and dunes there for nigh on 50 years, with the risk of grave environmental damage.
Any attempt to buy out that permission by compensation would involve sums of money well beyond the resources of the community, because of the lack of limits on the sand that can be taken away. So the Bill will not be sufficient to deal with the problems that exist in Sussex and Northumberland. I hope that the Minister will at some stage consider beefing up his proposals.
I thought some months ago that I would have to delay the House for a considerable time on the issues that we are discussing, because I did not believe at that time that the Government would move on the points that a number of hon. Members then made, even though there were consultations. I did not expect the Government to introduce the type of amendments that are before us today.
I became involved in the subject in a considerable way about a year ago, having been approached by the Backup moors action group in the constituency of the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier), the Minister for the Environment and Countryside, it being adjacent to my constituency. I was concerned with an issue being pursued by that body, by Janet Anderson, the prospective Labour candidate for that constituency, and by a number of people in my constituency who were fearful of what might happen in Hapton moor, which runs through that constituency into my constituency.
In October last year I visited the Britannia and Facit site,s in Rossendale, near Bacup. When I visited the site, I was told that the Minister had paid a visit to the area earlier in the day. I was absolutely horrified by the wanton destruction that I saw there, and I became convinced that speedy action had to be taken to deal with IDOs.
While, therefore, I support everything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths), I applaud the Government for having tabled the new clause and its related amendments. Any further delay in taking action to deal with the problem would have represented a negation of duty in protecting the environment. Anyone who sees at first hand what has happened in some areas must be utterly dismayed. We accept the need for quarrying and the fact that aggregates must be made available, but we must do everything possible to protect the environment.
A problem that will be dealt with by the new clause was identified in a written answer that the then Minister, now the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, gave me in November, when he said:
No records of applications made under interim development orders were required and no information about the total number of permissions granted is currently available."—[Official Report, 19 November 1990; Vol. 181, c. 43.]
We did not even know about that issue. I pursued it not only with the Department of the Environment but with the county council. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend referred to the matter in Committee from material that I supplied to him. The county council had no records. One of the reasons why the records are inadequate is because of local government reorganisation. Many of the planning authorities that existed in the pre-planning days have now gone out of existence. Some of their records were pretty poor in the first place, but the records kept by some of the new bodies—the county councils that took over those responsibilities—vary considerably.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend was right to move the amendment, but I am sure that the Minister will not accept it. I sincerely feel that the Bill is a tremendous improvement on the existing position and will be welcomed by people in many parts of the country who wish to avoid the devastation that has been taking place as a result of interim development orders.
I wish to press the Minister on two problems in which I am particularly interested: sites where limestone pavements and limestone are taken for garden rockeries, and sites in parts of north Wales, where slate is extracted for fireplaces and patios.
Most of the sites are small. They are rarely worked on a full-time basis but often are worked for only a few weeks a year and sometimes only on Saturdays and Sundays. On many occasions, much damage is caused to the environment. The problem is that local people object to a site being worked and, when they inquire, they are told that those who are working the site have permission, so they do not pursue the matter further.
Although the new clause should cover such sites, how will the general public know that people will no longer be allowed to extract minerals from small sites in that historic way? How will they now be able to take action to get such extraction stopped? What advice will be given to people who live close to small quarrying sites and who, over the years, have suffered the nuisance and the environmental damage caused by them, so that they will know that those traditional works should not be continued?
There will inevitably be continuing and increasing problems for planning in a conflict between the need to extract minerals and the need to preserve our countryside. What are the Government doing to reduce that conflict by considering the use of recycling materials, especially for road construction, to ensure that we dramatically reduce the demand for such minerals?
The debate on new clause 1 has been helpful. The hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) might have been more forthcoming in welcoming the Government's action. Even the Council for the Protection of Rural England said in a circular:
The CPRE welcomes the positive approach taken by the Government to reducing the problems associated with interim development orders.
It is true that the CPRE would have liked us to go even further. The Association of County Councils said:
We are especially pleased that the Secretary of State has addressed this important issue, by means of New Clause 1 and the associated Schedules and amendments.
It is worth putting it on record that IDOs have been around since just after the second world war and the Government have grasped the nettle and dealt with them after too long a period. We have instituted a review of planning permissions granted in the 1950s and 1960s, which also featured in our debates.
In answer to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett), any extraction of aggregates will now have to be covered by planning permission and must be entered on the planning register. I do not know, from what he told the House, whether that extraction takes place under IDOs or whether such works are already in the planning regime.
Once the provisions of new clause 1 are up and running, any member of the public will be able to look at the planning register and see whether planning consent was granted. People will also be able to see what conditions have been attached to the working of a particular quarry.
The hon. Gentleman also asked how one could reduce demand for aggregates by, for example, recycling. A debate will take place later to deal specifically with that issue and the demand for aggregates and the potential conflict with the environment. My hon. Friend who will answer that debate will give a full response on how we address those broader issues.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Sir N. Macfarlane) asked several questions. There will be two consultation exercises. The first will be on the guidance that we shall give to the mineral planning authorities on the working conditions that we should like introduced to deal with the IDOs. We shall consult them before we make our guidelines available. We want to get on with that quickly. The second consultation exercise will be next year on the review of the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Act 1981. That is a broader review of the regime covering consents in the 1950s and 1960s. We shall consult with the industry, landowners and mineral planning authorities long before we lay down regulations, which will be subject to affirmative resolutions in both Houses of Parliament. The consultation will take place next year.
On new clause 8, will the Minister confirm that identical consultations will take place in Scotland with interested parties? I ask that because quarrying activity taking place in Perthshire, at a site which is closely associated with Shakespeare's Macbeth, is causing much concern to local people and to Scots in general. I hope that the Minister has sought an assurance from the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland on that quarrying activity.
The hon. Gentleman may have seen that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland was nodding vigorously. The Bill provides for Scotland in terms equivalent to those that apply to England and Wales. My hon. Friend will write to planning authorities and people in the minerals industry in Scotland to inform them of the action that we are debating this afternoon. A further and more detailed survey will also be conducted to try to improve some of the information available on IDOs in Scotland.
My hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside has been actively involved in the debate in my Department and has a detailed knowledge of the conditions in Rossendale. As a constituency Member, he warmly welcomes the provisions of new clause 1.
We welcome the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) back to our debates. He made an appearance earlier in the Standing Committee, but we were denied the benefit of his help for the rest of the proceedings. There was an Adjournment debate on Druridge bay about four months ago to which the Under-Secretary of State—my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo) —responded. The broader review of the 1981 Act will embrace the conditions and problems that he described.
In answer to the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Vaz), we have consulted the industry and the mineral planning authorities on the time scale and, as a result of representations, we lengthened the time scale and introduced flexibility. I am confident that the mineral planning authorities can now cope. If there is a local problem, those authorities have the discretion to extend the period beyond 12 months if they feel that more time is needed for applications in their areas.
I agreed with the comments of the hon. Member for Bridgend. Parliament is for ever driving up standards of health and environmental protection. We do not give compensation to factories when we impose higher standards of safety. That is why it would be wholly unreasonable to provide compensation when we try to improve environmental conditions in the minerals industry. However, we do not go as far as the hon. Gentleman on the expropriation of assets. There may be parallels on the continent, but we shall not pursue them here. As for people who find that they have bought property close to an IDO, once IDOs are registered with the mineral planning authority, they should appear on that register within two weeks. Therefore, in future, a search should throw up the existence of an IDO.
I think that I have dealt with all the points raised—if not, I promise to write to those hon. Members who have raised issues that have not been addressed. I hope that the House will agree that we can accept all the Government's new clauses, but I cannot advise the House to accept amendment (a) in the name of Opposition Members.