The National Planning Policy Guideline (NPPG) Land for Mineral Working includes a broad strategy on superquarries, involving preferred 'search areas' on the north coast of the Highland Region, in the Shetland Isles and in the Western Isles, and the limiting of superquarry numbers in the interests of safeguarding Scotland's natural heritage.
The guideline also covers all other mineral activities in Scotland, including coal, metalliferous minerals and other fossil fuels. It encourages suitably controlled mineral extraction but stresses the need for strong environmental controls.
The full text of the Parliamentary Question and Answer is: Mr George Kynoch: To ask the Secretary of State whether he has yet set a date for publication of the National Planning Guideline on Land for Mineral Working, and if he will make a statement.
This is the first comprehensive planning policy statement on the working of minerals in Scotland. It seeks to promote economic activity without compromising Scotland's important environmental assets.
In so doing, it introduces a general presumption in favour of properly assessed and controlled mineral extraction, cautions against such activity in particularly sensitive locations, and requires high standards of environmental care. It also commends a greater reliance on renewable and recycled minerals, in line with our undertakings in the recently published UK Sustainable Development Strategy.
In addition, the NPPG provides explicit guidance on coastal superquarries. I have concluded that such developments have a potentially important contribution to make to the economy at both national and local level, but that their scale and potential impact require them to be controlled carefully.
Based on previous research and a preference for a dispersed geographical pattern, I have therefore stipulated preferred search areas on the north coast of Highland Region, in the Shetland Isles and in the Western Isles. In the first instance, I have also chosen to limit numbers allowing for no more than four such developments, including the existing superquarry at Glensanda, over the 15 year period to 2009.
This will be subject to review in the normal manner. In the meantime, I believe it represents a realistic strategy that will allow a sensible balance to be struck between social and economic benefits on the one hand and environmental care on the other.