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Quarries (Development)

Volume 76: debated on Wednesday 3 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent representations he has received regarding the implications of the House of Lords decision in the Hartshead Quarry case for the control of development in the vicinity of quarries.

I was sent copies of the report issued by the County Planning Officers Society on 14 November 1984 and the report issued by the Peak park joint planning board on 22 February 1985, both of which consider the implications of the Hartshead judgment. I have also received representations from the local authority associations. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) tabled a parliamentary question on this subject, and I have received nine letters from right hon. and hon. Members since 22 February.

Does the Minister realise and recognise the very serious implications of this judgment for planning authorities? Has he been reminded of the fact that we now have a situation in which limestone and sand quarries, which have sometimes discontinued operations for 10 or 20 years, can decide to recommence operations and no longer require planning approval? There is often housing and other residential accommodation adjacent to those workings, creating very serious problems. Will the Minister seriously consider urgently introducing new legislation to control this?

I can set the hon. Gentleman's mind at rest, because when the remaining provisions of part I of the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Act 1981 are introduced there will be a range of powers available to authorities. It will then be for them to decide which of these is most appropriate to any individual case. Each case, of course, must be considered on its planning merits. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) on 11 March. That sets out our intentions in parliamentary terms over the next few months.

While I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for the additional information that he has given to the House on this important matter, and while he will appreciate, as I do, that quarrying is a vital employer in the Peak park and other such areas—and farming, too, for that matter—does he agree that there is an anomaly in the present planning legislation relating to quarrying? This does not apply to anything else. Does he not think, therefore, that legislation is required to put this right?

I do not believe that any new legislation is required. I think that my answer to my hon. Friend earlier this month outlined the position. We have to accept that, following the House of Lords ruling, planning permission to extract minerals from the site remains available unless the Peak park joint planning board exercises its powers to make an order revoking that permission or that use of the land. I certainly take note of what my hon. Friend has said, but when these orders are laid later in this Session they will give the local authorities a range of powers. That was the intention of the 1981 Act. It was designed to introduce after-care and further provisos.