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Planning

Volume 706: debated on Thursday 18 December 2008

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Andrews on 14 November (WA 156–57), whether the time taken to process each of the seven appeals was due to the substance of the regulations not being part of the statute; and, if so, why that statute was not promulgated until this year. [HL274]

The time taken to process the seven appeals mentioned in my previous reply has been due to a number of reasons. For two of the appeals, those relating to Smalldale Head Quarry and Pole Hole Quarry, the principal reason for delay was the need for appropriate EIA regulations to be in place. For the remaining five appeals, various other reasons, such as reviews under the Habitats Regulations, were more important factors.

The requirements of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) directive were first applied to the review of mineral planning permissions by regulations that came into effect on 15 November 2000. A voluntary procedure was put into place for those applications and appeals that were not caught by the 2000 regulations. In most cases mineral operators co-operated and new conditions were determined.

However, it eventually became apparent that in a small number of cases applications were being stalled because operators would not provide mineral planning authorities with the necessary environmental information. At the end of 2004 possible solutions to this problem were explored; and at the beginning of 2006 I agreed to enact a set of regulations that would apply the requirements of the EIA directive to outstanding applications and appeals not caught by the 2000 regulations.

The proposed regulations were subjected to wide and thorough consultation and careful legal scrutiny. In the event, appropriate and workable regulations proved to be very complex to draft, and despite the best efforts of all concerned it was not possible to enact them before July 2008.