Evidence of ring ditches at Sutton Courtenay sand and gravel quarry in Oxfordshire
Evidence of ring ditches at Sutton Courtenay sand and gravel quarry in Oxfordshire
Evidence of ring ditches at Sutton Courtenay sand and gravel quarry in Oxfordshire

Informing Mineral Plans

Getting the right policies in minerals plans is essential if heritage issues are to be appropriately factored in when planning applications are being considered. Dialogue between the main interested parties is essential at all stages of the planning process and not simply when a planning application for mineral development is made or is likely to be made.

The plan-led system

Locally, the policies and site allocations within adopted minerals plans are part of the statutory Development Plan for each area. The term ‘Development Plan’ is defined in the Glossary of theNational Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Planning decisions should be made in accordance with the Development Plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. This provides the basis of a plan-led system.  The NPPF provides the national policies which must be taken into account when considering policies and proposals for mineral extraction in England. It should be read as a whole.

The evidence base informing Mineral Plans

Mineral plans are prepared by mineral planning authorities. They play an important role in setting a positive framework to maintain a steady and adequate supply of minerals - which is crucial for the UK’s economy (see the Mineral Products Association’s website for more on this link to our economy).

Mineral plans help to identify the level of provision required and guide the location of future extraction. Both of these elements are informed by the evidence base gathered by the mineral planning authorities. The NPPF outlines the requirements for the evidence base that informs plan-making.

One such requirement is to prepare a Local Aggregate Assessment (LAA). LAAs help to inform the level of minerals provision in different mineral producing areas across the country. They monitor the supply of aggregates, calculating the average of 10 years sales. Also they review the potential for permitted reserves (land with current planning permission for mineral extraction) to meet expected demand. In other words, they help to maintain a ‘steady and adequate supply of aggregates’ as stated in the NPPF.  A useful starting point to learn more about LAAs is the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG). Guidance on the production and use of LAAs is available to download from the Planning Officers Society website.

Focusing on the historic environment, sources of relevant information include, but are not limited to, the local Historic Environment Record (HER) and the National Heritage List for England:

  • The Heritage Gateway gives remote access to many local HERs for information on historic buildings, archaeological sites and other features. Note that the information provided is only a summary of what is recorded by the HER. Other HERs may have their own online search facilities. Contact details for all local authority and most national park authority HERs in England are available on the Heritage Gateway.
  • The National Heritage List for England provides descriptions of all nationally designated heritage assets including listed buildings, scheduled monuments, registered parks and gardens, registered battlefields and protected wrecks. These descriptions vary in their completeness with only the most recent providing analysis of each asset’s significance.

Minerals can only be extracted where they occur. So, when considering potential future locations, it will be vital to have a robust evidence base about the historic environment in mineral producing areas.

Historic England has helped to support archaeological resource assessments in certain mineral producing areas which can help to inform the process of identifying potential locations of future extraction. Such assessments are available to download from the Archaeological Data Service.

Relevant archaeological, geological and other factors can be used to create data sets that avoid large areas of the countryside being designated as areas of archaeological potential.

Considering the Palaeolithic

Mineral development provides rare potential to deliver new knowledge about our historic environment. This can be especially valuable in the context of the Palaeolithic remains, which are often deeply buried in deposits that are only accessible within quarries.

Noting the lack of accurate Palaeolithic information on many HERs (something HE is working to address), additional searches of records from the English Rivers Palaeolithic Survey (Wessex Archaeology), Quaternary Research Association Field Guides and other sources will be needed. It is also good practice for the Palaeolithic potential of a site to be assessed by a Palaeolithic / Pleistocene specialist.