§ Mr. David Nicholson
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish the terms of reference of the working group on peat extraction.
§ Mr. Baldry
I am pleased to announce that a working group has been convened by my Department which will work to the following terms of reference. Membership of the working group includes representatives of the peat industry, mineral planning authorities, the statutory nature and countryside conservation bodies, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Forestry Commission and the Scottish Office Environment Department. The working group will advise my Department aboutcurrent peat extraction and usage having regard to the overall peatland resource in Great Britain and the place of imports and alternatives, and having regard to the Government's general policies for reconciling the supply of minerals with sustainable development;any required guidance at national level in respect of development control over existing extraction sites; guidance on rehabilitation of existing workings; and guidance in respect of future land-use issues affecting peatlands, especially the nature conservation of, and extraction from, lowland peat mires.
Particular topics that the group will need to consider include:
- (i) occurrence and types of peat;
- (ii) the nature conservation status of the identified peat areas, including the scale and extent of the protected areas; and the archaeological and landscape importance of peatlands;
- (iii) current areas of peat production;
- (iv) production and uses of peat, and the place of imports;
- (v) peat working practices, rehabilitation and after-uses, including the issues of old peat permissions as part of the Department's review of the operation of the 1981 Minerals Act;
- (vi) peat alternatives;
- (vii) the effects of mineral extraction on other peatland land uses (eg. conservation, agriculture and forestry);
- (viii) other land uses affecting peatlands (eg. agriculture and forestry);
- (ix) use of information from the above to consider preparation of further planning guidance about nature conservation, peat extraction and other land-use matters affecting peatlands.
Information on these topics will be obtained through factual papers and other information provided by my Department and other members of the working group. The Department will also invite information and views on these topics from additional consultees.
The Department's remit for minerals and planning policy legislation and guidance covers England. The Scottish and Welsh Offices are associated with the group, whose work will assist in preparing any similar guidance for Scotland and Wales.