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Devon Minerals Monitoring Report 2020 (October 2021)

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1. Introduction

1.1 Minerals Planning in Devon

Devon County Council is the minerals and waste planning authority for Devon, with responsibility for preparing minerals and waste policies, determining minerals and waste planning applications and ensuring that development is in accordance with the planning permission granted. This excludes Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks and the unitary authority areas of Plymouth and Torbay which are responsible for minerals and waste planning in these areas.

1.2 Purpose of the Monitoring Report

The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (the 2004 Act) (as amended) requires the County Council to produce Local Plans for minerals and waste planning in Devon. There is also the requirement to produce a Monitoring Report on the progress with, and implementation of, those Plans. The first Monitoring Report was published for 2004/05. All previous Monitoring Reporting are available on the County Council’s website.

The scope and content of a planning authority’s Monitoring Report is the subject of legislation[1] to which Devon County Council has had regard. This Report monitors the County Council’s Minerals Plan in four areas:

  • the progress of the County Council in implementing its Minerals and Waste Development Scheme;
  • an assessment of the performance of the policies within the Minerals Plan;
  • any action undertaken in accordance with the Duty to Cooperate; and
  • conclusions on the key findings of the Monitoring Report and any actions required to address the issues that have arisen, including any difficulties encountered in producing the report.

This Monitoring Report covers the calendar year of 2020. The Devon Minerals Plan was adopted in February 2017, at which time it replaced all previously saved policies from the earlier Devon County Minerals Local Plan 2004. This monitoring report uses the monitoring framework set out in Table 9.2[2] of the Devon Minerals Plan. These indicators have been developed in the context of the Minerals Plan’s overarching objectives and were scrutinised as part of the examination process.

[1] Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended) and The Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012

[2] Implementation and Monitoring Framework for the Devon Minerals Plan

1.3 Implementation of the Minerals and Waste Development Scheme

The 2004 Act (as amended) requires the County Council to prepare a Minerals and Waste Development Scheme [MWDS]. This Scheme is intended to provide a programme for the preparation of the development plan documents that will be contained within the Minerals and Waste Development Framework, and progress in implementing the MWDS is to be monitored through a Monitoring Report.

The Fifth Revision of the Minerals and Waste Development Scheme was published in March 2018[3] and notes the Minerals Plan as having been adopted. It indicates that in the event of an update to the Minerals Plan being required as a result of a review, a further revision of the Scheme will be prepared.

[3] Available in the Development Scheme tab on DCC’s Minerals and Waste Policy pages

2. Minerals Policy: Assessment of Performance and Effects

The below assessment of performance and effects is based on the indicators contained within the Implementation and Monitoring Chapter in Table 9.2 of the Devon Minerals Plan. It should be borne in mind that the number of planning applications for minerals development received by the County Council in any one year is small, and that a large proportion of the Plan policies may not be used in the determination of planning applications every year. A schedule of 2020 planning applications for mineral development is provided in Appendix 1.

This section of the monitoring report has been updated from previous years to provide results in a way which more clearly identifies where monitoring targets are not being met. This includes the adoption of a traffic light system for the results as defined below.

Traffic Light System for the monitoring results

The indicators for each of the Plan’s six key objectives have been grouped into a table for each. Where indicators have score red as above, a review has been undertaken. This is presented after the results table for each objective.

2.1 Objective 1: Spatial Strategy

Indicators 1.1 – 1.5 seek to ensure minerals development adhere to the Spatial Strategy contained within the Devon Minerals Plan.

Objective 1: Spatial Strategy (Indicator 1.1 to 1.5)

The results for the Spatial Strategy indicators are largely positive and meeting targets. In relation to indicator 1.1, the closure of Drakelands mine in October 2018 has resulted in the number of locations working industrial minerals to reduce from four to three. At the time of writing, the buyer has stated their intention to bring the mine back into operation in the near future and therefore an update to policy is not considered necessary at this stage.

In relation to indicator 1.4, the result of 70% means the monitoring trigger has been breached for the second year in a row, with the result declining further from the previous year’s result of 74%.  This result suggests that a higher proportion of Devon’s land-won and secondary aggregates are being sold to destinations outside of wider Devon than in previous years. This will continue to be monitored in future years, but it is not considered necessary to update the Minerals Plan at this stage.

2.2 Objective 2: Safeguarding Mineral Resources and Infrastructure

Indicators 2.1 – 2.2 seek to ensure policy is effectively safeguarding mineral resources and associated infrastructure from sterilisation by other forms of development.

Objective 2: Safeguarding Minerals Resource and Infrastructure (Indicator 2.1-2.2)

The County Council objected to development on mineral safeguarding grounds in a small number of cases, with the District Councils refusing planning permission for those applications. The Council continues to monitor new planning applications closely to ensure that it is able to make appropriate responses.

There was no change in the number of operational mineral wharves and railheads in Devon during 2020. The reduction in the 2015 baseline from six to five facilities is due to one wharf in Appledore ceasing to be used for the landing of marine dredged sand and gravel in 2017. However, as two other wharves remain available in the locality, it is not necessary to seek replacement provision.

2.3 Objective 3: Industrial Minerals

Indicators 3.1 – 3.6 seek to ensure policy is maintaining Devon’s ability to assist in meeting national and international demand for those industrial minerals found within the County.

Objective 3: Industrial Minerals (Indicator 3.1-3.6)

The results for the Industrial Minerals indicators remain varied. The results for indicator 3.1 and 3.2 relating to the number of operational sites, remained at their targets in 2020. Despite this, indicators 3.3 and 3.4 remained below their target and outside their review trigger margins. Similarly, indicator 3.5 is below its target however, this is within the review trigger margin.

Relating to indicator 3.3, the number of operational metalliferous mineral sites has reduced to zero in 2019. This is due to the cessation of working at Drakelands Mine. However, as outlined in the 2018 monitoring review, the buyer has stated their intention to bring the mine back into operation in the near future and therefore an update to policy is not considered necessary at this stage.

With regard to indicators 3.4 and 3.5 and the sale of industrial minerals in 2020, the data indicates a reduction of 36% from the baseline in sales of china clay and a reduction of 15% for ball clay.  Whilst the target has not been met for 3.5 the reduction remains within the trigger margin and the eight operational ball clay sites in Devon continue to contribute to the national market. Similarly, whilst there has been a more significant UK wide reduction in the sales of china clay, the number of sites operating in Devon has not changed and therefore Devon sites continue to form an important part of the national supply. It is also worth highlighting that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have had an impact upon sales during 2020.  In this context it is not necessary to update related Minerals Plan policies at this stage but this will be kept under annual review.

[4] The 2020 results for indicators 3.4-3.6 are provisional figures that are yet to be formally published within the BGS yearbook 2021

2.4 Objective 4: Aggregate Minerals

Indicators 4.1 – 4.3 seek to ensure policy maintains a sustainable, steady and adequate supply of aggregates, making maximum use of the County’s resources of secondary and recycled materials and providing new resources when required.

Objective 4: Aggregate Minerals (Indicator 4.1-4.3)

The landbank for land-won crushed rock remained above the target level in 2020, however the landbank for sand and gravel at 5.7 years has fallen below the 7 year minimum required by the NPPF. The Devon Minerals Plan provides for up to 9.2MT of sand and gravel at two sites which if delivered, would sufficiently extend the life of the landbank and therefore it is not considered necessary to update the Minerals Plan policies at this stage. This situation will continue to be closely monitored.

 Both the crushed rock and sand and gravel three years sales average have fallen below the ten years average for the first time in recent years, but this result is likely to have been influenced by reduced sales during 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

Sales of secondary aggregates increased slightly from the previous year (0.561 million tonnes in 2020 compared to 0.549 million tonnes in 2019) and the proportion secondary aggregates represented within the wider picture of land won and secondary aggregates increased from 15.1% in 2019 to 17.1% 2020.

2.5 Objective 5: Building Stone

Indicators 5.1 – 5.2 seek to ensure policy enables local distinctiveness by securing an appropriate supply of local characteristic building materials.

Objective 5: Building Stone (Indicator 5.1-5.2)

The 2020 result for indicator 5.1 remains the same as the previous year. Regarding indicator 5.2, sales of building stone saw an increase of 126% from the previous year despite the pandemic, however, as reported in the 2019 AMR, it is likely sales during 2019 were under reported due to the survey method adopted.

2.6 Objective 6: Managing Mineral Development

Indicators 6.1 – 6.9 monitor policies that seek to manage mineral development in a manner that protects Devon’s communities from adverse impacts, conserves and enhances its environment, delivers positive benefits for its quality of life, green infrastructure and assists in mitigation of & adaptation to climate change.

Objective 6: Managing Mineral Development (Indicator 6.1-6.6)

Objective 6: Managing Mineral Development (Indicator 6.7-6.9)

The results for the Managing Mineral Development indicators were mainly positive in 2020 however, it should be noted there was a significant reduction in the number of applications determined within 2020 which are relevant to these indicators. This is likely to be a direct impact of the pandemic. Only one of the eight applications determined was relevant and therefore no changes to the Plan are recommended on the basis of 2020 results. The majority (six) indicators met their targets (6.3-6.8) and three indicators were below their target and outside the monitoring trigger margin, these are 6.1, 6.2 and 6.9.

With regards to indicator 6.1, only Drakeland’s liaison group met during 2020 meaning the monitoring trigger was breached. However, the other active quarry liaison groups did not meet due to the COVID-19 restrictions and therefore when considered in context, this is does not represent an issue requiring a review of the Minerals Plan.

3. Duty to Cooperate

The importance of working with our neighbours has been strengthened through the Localism Act and the introduction of the Duty to Cooperate. This Duty places a requirement for local authorities to work together on planning issues, including the development of planning policy documents. This ensures the effectiveness and deliverability of plans regarding strategic cross boundary matters.

Activities undertaken by Devon County Council in line with the Duty to Cooperate during the period of this Monitoring Report are summarised within this section.

3.1 Other Mineral Planning Authorities

In developing the Devon Minerals Plan, close liaison with other Minerals Planning Authorities meant that there were no objections raised in relation to the Duty to Cooperate.

Devon County Council has continued to coordinate data for aggregate minerals on behalf of the other wider Devon MPAs through 2018, partly due to its greater specialist resourcing and partly because the limited number of mineral sites in the other MPAs prevents them publishing sales and reserves data separately. The County Council undertakes annual aggregate surveys that cover wider Devon and prepares the Devon Local Aggregate Assessment in discussion with the other MPAs.

Devon County Council will continue to engage with the neighbouring MPAs, both directly and through the South West Aggregate Working Party (for which it provided the chairman from August 2016 to December 2017), and will contribute to development of their future Minerals Plans to ensure that cross-boundary issues are considered. In particular, dialogue will be maintained with Somerset County Council, regarding maintenance of a joint sand and gravel landbank taking account of potential supply from Somerset, and with Cornwall Council as outlined in a joint Memorandum of Understanding.

To ensure planning consistency across Devon’s MPAs, Devon County Council led on preparation of a joint minerals evidence base covering Devon, including Dartmoor, Plymouth and Torbay, to inform development of each MPA’s Minerals/Local Plans. It is intended that this set of Topic Papers is maintained as a ‘live’ resource and updated as necessary to inform the subsequent preparation of minerals policy by the other MPAs.

3.2 District Planning Authorities

Devon County Council participates extensively in the preparation of Local Plans by Devon’s district councils, and in Plans prepared by adjoining unitary and national park authorities, reflecting its roles as minerals and waste planning authority, highway authority and infrastructure provider. This participation includes ensuring that these Local Plans avoid constraining mineral resources and operations.

3.3 Other Relevant Organisations

In producing the Devon Minerals Plan formal engagement was carried out, in compliance with the specified organisations that fall within the scope of the Duty to Cooperate. The extent to which wider engagement in the development of the Plan has occurred is dependent on the degree to which individual organisations have an interest in minerals planning. Engagement has been most extensive with the Environment Agency and Natural England. As well as the designated Duty to Cooperate bodies, engagement has taken place with a range of organisations from the public and voluntary sectors.

4. Key Findings and Actions Required

4.1 Minerals and Waste Development Scheme

As outlined in section 1.3, the Fifth Revision of the Minerals and Waste Development Scheme was published in March 2018 and notes the Minerals Plan as having been adopted. It indicates that in the event of an update to the Minerals Plan being required as a result of a review, a further revision of the Scheme will be prepared.

4.2 Implementation of the Devon Minerals Plan

The Devon Minerals Plan was adopted in February 2017 and this monitoring period represents the third full year in which the Plan’s policies have been fully in effect. Whilst this enables a consideration of the policies implementation, the number of planning applications for minerals development in each year remains low and this situation has been exacerbated in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chapter 2 shows that a positive approach is being achieved with minerals permissions granted in 2020, largely conforming to the Plan’s policies.  Monitoring triggers have been breached for 5 indicators[5] as follows:

  • Indicator 1.4: Proportion of Devon’s land-won and secondary aggregates sold to destinations within wider Devon reduced to 70%;
  • Indicator 3.4: Annual UK sales of china clay reduced by 36% from the baseline (in excess of the trigger margin);
  • Indicator 4.1: The landbank for sand and gravel fell below the 7 year minimum required by the NPPF.
  • Indicator 6.2: No mineral planning applications incorporated sustainable drainage systems, but only one permission was relevant to this indicator in 2020.
  • Indicator 6.9: No permissions made provision for use of renewable or low carbon energy, but only one permission was relevant to this indicator in 2020.

Where breaches have occurred, these have been reviewed and discussed in this report. It is not considered necessary to update the Minerals Plan at this stage in light of these monitoring triggers being breached, however, this will continue to be monitored over future years

[5] this does not include 2 breaches related to Drakelands mine which is anticipated to reopen in the near future or the reduction in local quarry liaison group meetings (indicator 6.1) as this was a direct result of the covid-19 restrictions.

Appendix 1 - Schedule of Minerals Planning Applications Determined in 2020

Appendix 1 - Schedule of minerals planning applications determined in 2020