Green Balance is a significant contributor to national planning policy on mineral working, through research and advice, and also has active practical involvement in individual plans and development proposals. We promote good practice while challenging development at inappropriate sites.
Green Balance has been very active in Government-funded research projects over the years, particularly examining construction aggregates. All these projects have been carried out in partnership with other specialists, often at the British Geological Survey. In parallel we have undertaken our own small pieces of analysis, about 20 of which have been published in the journal Mineral Planning, with further articles in Planning and in Quarry Management.
The obligation to meet national aggregates requirements is divided between the regions broadly according to their ability to supply. Green Balance was commissioned by the South East England Regional Assembly to review the reliability of the approach and its results. Our report (2009) established that demand for aggregates has long been less than predicted and there was some spare capacity in the potential supplies of mineral. Insufficient planning applications explained the apparent supply shortage compared with the allocation to the region.
Other national research projects are described elsewhere on: old mineral permissions (see National Campaigns), industrial minerals (see Research), and the Managed Aggregates Supply System (see Advice).
Geology limits the choice of site for quarrying, so handling the tensions between needs and the consequences of operations is a central challenge for mineral planning. We help to find the best ways of resolving the conflicting pressures. Examples of our practical work are in the Peak District, where we advised the National Park Authority on policies for all mineral types in its Core Strategy (see Advice) and at Hithermoor, Surrey, where we promoted an aggregates recycling scheme (see Expert Witness).
We have also published our proposals for practical steps to make quarrying more practicable and acceptable, such as articles in Quarry Management on:
Our critical role in a nationally important test case on aggregates working in National Parks, at Spaunton in the North York Moors, is described in the Minerals Case Study. Other locally important cases illustrate how Green Balance operates through Responses to consultation (e.g. at Shoreham, Kent), Local Campaigns (e.g. at Eashing, Surrey) and Advocacy (e.g. at Backdale, Peak District).
The hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, of shale beds to release gas is promoted by the Government as a new source of energy, but is controversial because of its impacts, risks, carbon emissions, continued reliance on fossil fuels and its adverse consequences for investment in renewable energy. Exploration drilling has begun in England and large scale development is planned. As experienced mineral planning consultants we are well-placed to assist local organisations and local authorities on how best to respond to the issues raised and their regulation.
Richard Bate, Partner, represented Friends of the Earth at the test case public inquiry in Blackpool during spring 2016 into two evaluation proposals by Cuadrilla in Lancashire to drill into the Bowland shale and frack for gas. His evidence as an independent expert witness on planning established that the impacts on climate change, flowback fluids and public health were all planning issues material to the final decisions. Other experts then gave evidence for FoE on each of these specialist topics. He was also able to demonstrate that the Environment Agency did not consider it part of their remit to establish the practical availability of sufficient specialised wastewater treatment plant to deal with the highly polluted waste from the proposed boreholes, and that this should be addressed by the planning system. In a fast-changing policy context, he argued that the Government's withdrawal from investment in Carbon Capture and Storage, plus its support for the Paris Agreement on climate change, both made support for additional gas fossil fuel extraction much less credible.
The Lancashire community website www.counterbalance.co.uk commented on Nathalie Lieven QC's cross-examination of Richard Bate: "This was a really good, firm and confident witness and Ms Lieven was, we thought, really struggling and scraping the very bottom of the barrel to find arguments to throw against what he said."
Green Balance has also advised two local organisations challenged by proposals that would lead to fracking, at Balcombe and Wisborough Green/Kirdford in West Sussex. Balcombe has been on the front line of exploration with a view to fracking, with one completed borehole and another permitted (despite a High Court challenge brought by residents in 2014). Drilling proposals at Wisborough Green/Kirdford were refused by the County Mineral Planning Authority and a public inquiry was called to hear the appeal by Celtique Energie. However, the appeal was withdrawn in 2015 when the developer realised that residents intended to mount a substantial challenge at the inquiry.
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