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Planning (Open-cast Mining)

Volume 498: debated on Tuesday 27 October 2009

3. If he will revise the planning guidelines concerning buffer zones between residential dwellings and open-cast mining sites in England. (295523)

I am grateful for that reply, but I was not going to ask about the specific planning consents that the Minister has referred to. None the less, that is relevant in the sense that if he lived in Scotland or Wales, no open-cast planning consent would have been given to his local authority because of the 500-metre buffer zone requirements, whereas in England only 250 metres is required. Does he think that that is fair?

I know that this is a controversial issue in Shropshire, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not going to turn it into a party political row, especially since my hon. Friend the Member for Telford (David Wright) has been working just as hard as he has to represent constituents on this subject. Just because we do not have a blanket policy on buffer zones in England, it does not mean that the impact on nearby housing and other environmental matters are not taken into account during the planning process—in fact, they are the key issues that are considered.

On the narrow point about planning guidelines and applications, is the Minister aware of the widespread concern that there are proposals to put them only on the internet in future and not to print them to be published on lamp posts and hedgerows or in local papers? Will he assure me that the Government and his Department will seek to maintain printed publication of planning applications, so that all our constituents can see them in their local papers?

We have an open consultation on this issue at the moment, and we will consider my right hon. Friend’s point carefully. If he would like to meet me or my colleagues to discuss it in more detail, we would be delighted.