Minerals Local Plan Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report
Introduction to Sustainability Appraisal
The Sustainability Appraisal (SA) process is a way of ensuring that all plans and programmes which relate to land use issues are compatible with the aims of sustainable development. This includes the Minerals Local Plan which will be tested against an agreed set of sustainability objectives. These objectives are defined during the early stages of the process and set the framework for assessing the emerging plan documents and also monitoring their effectiveness. By going through this process, we can ensure that the Minerals Local Plan, whilst contributing towards the overall development of Nottinghamshire, does not conflict with the aims of other strategies and programmes that are intended to enhance our social, environmental and economic well-being.
SA is an ongoing, iterative process which is interlinked with the various stages of the plan making process. The initial information gathering stage helps to establish significant issues that need to be addressed by the emerging Plan documents.
The Scoping Report
This Scoping Report is the first stage in the appraisal process and sets out the baseline data that has been compiled as part of the information gathering phase. The report also considers relevant plans and programmes that may influence the Minerals Local Plan or be affected by its policies. Having identified significant issues that should be addressed, the report then seeks to establish a suitable framework of sustainability objectives against which the proposed policies should be assessed.
The purpose of this report is therefore to decide on the scope and level of detail for the SA. The information and findings set out here are not final as the report is intended to involve other interested parties in the appraisal process and to identify any gaps in what is covered. In some cases the data may simply not exist, in which case, this will be noted along with proposals to overcome this when the next appraisal is carried out.
Key findings of this Scoping Report
Population - The majority of the population of the Plan area is concentrated within the main urban areas around Nottingham and Mansfield and the outlying market towns of Newark, Worksop and Retford. Significant growth in population is expected as the result of the planned future development of new housing and employment areas, including around Nottingham and Newark.
Transport - There are generally good road and rail links to the rest of the UK, especially via the main north-south routes. Major improvement works have recently been completed for several key roads. Key transport concerns are congestion and air quality. Although some mineral loads are transported by rail or barge the majority of minerals transport is by road. It may be possible to move more materials by rail or water in future but the economic viability of this is uncertain.
Natural Environment and Biodiversity - Despite a wide range of important wildlife habitats and species, there have also been significant past losses due to the pressures of development. However the condition of key nature conservation sites is improving and the importance of maintaining the area's green infrastructure as well as designated sites is increasingly recognised.
Historic and cultural heritage - Much of our preserved heritage dates from the Middle Ages onwards and can be seen in the large country estates, market towns, medieval castles and more recent industrial archaeology and the legacy of coal mining in many areas. The proportion of buildings at risk is higher than the national average (though it is lower than the proportion for the East Midlands region). There are a large number of conservation areas, registered parks and gardens and Scheduled Ancient Monuments but not all of our heritage assets are protected and much of the evidence of our past has not yet been investigated.
Landscape, countryside and townscape - Parts of our countryside and open space remain threatened by development pressures to deliver new housing and employment opportunities, especially in the urban fringes and the Green Belt around Nottingham. Mineral working has had a significant impact in some areas but sensitive restoration can provide opportunities for landscape improvements or to create new features. The possible impacts of climate change may also alter the appearance of our landscape as the local temperature and water levels will dictate what kinds of vegetation can be sustained.
Climate - Nottinghamshire's climate is likely to follow the patterns generally being observed and predicted across the UK with increased rainfall, hotter and more unsettled summers, increased flooding and more frequent and severe storm events. The use of fossil fuels for energy is a major contributor to so-called greenhouse gas emissions. Transporting minerals also contributes to the overall level of vehicle emissions making the need to minimise road transport of minerals a priority.
Air quality - This is generally improving but air pollution along major transport corridors such as the A1 and M1 and around the main urban areas is still a concern. Power stations are a major source of Co2 emissions. The transport of minerals is also a potential source of air pollution.
Water - Water supplies are likely to be sufficient to meet the current levels of planned housing and employment growth, but they are unlikely to support any additional increases and may be a constraint on the exact locations of new development. Groundwater protection is a major issue across a large part of our area. River quality has seen a slight improvement but is still marginally lower than the regional and national figure. Nottinghamshire is also vulnerable to nitrate pollution, especially in north Nottinghamshire around Worksop. A large area of the County (concentrated around western and northern areas) is covered by a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone to limit further damage and try to lower existing levels.
Soils - Outside the urban areas, the County is largely agricultural and approximately 70% of Nottinghamshire's agricultural land is classed as grade 3 or above. Housing demand, in particular, means there are significant pressures for built development, especially on the urban fringe around Nottingham, Newark and Mansfield.
Flood risk - The wide Trent flood plain is a major development constraint for Nottingham and Newark especially. River and surface water flooding is a significant issue within the Trent Valley and parts of Hucknall, Sutton-in-Ashfield and Kirkby-in-Ashfield. Mansfield, Worksop and Warsop could also experience localised problems.
Health - Overall health indicators for Nottinghamshire are slightly worse than both the regional and national comparisons although life expectancy has grown closer to the national average. There are also wide variations between different parts of Nottinghamshire especially between urban and rural areas.
Energy - Energy consumption has fallen slightly and the proportion of renewable energy used has increased, particularly through the use of wind turbines. The long term future of our three coal-fired power stations is uncertain but a new gas-fired station has been developed near Newark. In addition, a number of small-scale onshore oil and gas sites have been developed and there are schemes to utilise mine gas from old mineral workings and possible coal bed methane deposits.
Economy and Employment - Traditional industries have now largely given way to commercial, service and high-tech industries. Employment rates are slightly worse than the national average, but the number of active businesses has steadily increased over the last 5 years following a decrease associated with the 2008 recession. There are also wide variations in employment rates and income across the various districts. The minerals industry is not a major employer but as the economy recovers, predicted growth levels will need to be supported by new infrastructure, especially in and around the main urban areas, including the provision of construction and energy minerals.
Minerals – The greatest proportion of the minerals industry in Nottinghamshire relates to sand and gravel extraction, mainly in the Trent and Idle river valleys.
Gypsum has also been extensively mined and other minerals worked include brick clay, silica sand, building stone and oil. There are other potential mineral resources which could be exploited in the future such as industrial dolomite, coal bed methane and shale gas.
Taking a spatial approach
Although the issues highlighted above can be grouped broadly into the three themes of social, environmental and economic, many of these issues are interlinked and should not be considered in isolation. One of the features of the spatial planning system is to look at the wider context and how different issues relate to each other. The Minerals Local Plan will need to ensure that it provides an appropriate basis to identify adequate mineral resources to meet local and national need. It will therefore need to identify suitable locations for mineral extraction whilst also ensuring that these are the most socially and environmentally acceptable locations possible.
Proposed Sustainability Appraisal objectives
A range of draft SA objectives has been developed that take into account the key sustainability issues identified for Nottinghamshire following on from all the factors identified through the review of plans and policies and compilation of baseline data. These SA objectives will then be used to carry out the sustainability appraisal work which will be detailed in future SA documents.
Proposed SA Objectives
1. Ensure that adequate provision is made to meet local and national mineral demand.
2. Protect and enhance biodiversity at all levels and safeguard features of geological interest.
3. Promote sustainable patterns of movement and the use of more sustainable modes of transport.
4. Protect the quality of the historic environment, heritage assets and their settings above and below ground.
5. Protect and enhance the quality and character of our townscape and landscape.
6. Minimise impact and risk of flooding.
7. Minimise any possible impacts on, and increase adaptability to, climate change.
8. Protect high quality agricultural land and soil.
9. Promote more efficient use of land and resources
10. Promote energy efficiency and maximise renewable energy opportunities from new or existing development.
11. Protect and improve local air quality.
12. Protect and improve water quality and promote efficient use of water.
13. Support wider economic development and promote local job opportunities.
14. Protect and improve human health and quality of life.
What happens next?
The Scoping Report provides an early opportunity for interested parties to comment and ensures that the final SA report is robust enough to achieve its sustainable development objectives when appraising the Minerals Local Plan. Views on the suitability of this SA Scoping Report are being sought from the main relevant consultation bodies (Natural England, Historic England and the Environment Agency). Views are also welcome from any other interested parties at this stage. Feedback from the consultation process, along with any other additional findings and updates, will be incorporated into the ongoing SA process. This document will be open for comments until 14th January 2018.