HC Deb 13 July 1995 vol 263 c725W
Mr. John Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to publish new planning guidance on peat in England and if he will make a statement. [35117]

Mr. Robert B. Jones

We have published new planning guidance for peat in England today, in a new addition to the series of minerals planning guidance notes. This has taken account of the public consultation on the draft MPG in autumn 1994.

The guidance will ensure the conservation of important peat habitats and archaeological sites, which should be protected in development plans. Some of these habitats are areas over which the peat extraction industry has voluntarily given up valid permissions and conveyed the land to English Nature.

It spells out that any future peat extraction from new sites should be restricted to areas which have already been damaged by recent human activities and are of limited or no nature conservation value.

The guidance on the horticultural usage of peat and of alternatives sets a realistic balance based on the best current assessments. In accordance with the principles of sustainable development, the Government believe it is realistic to set a target for 40 per cent. of the total horticultural market requirements to be supplied by non-peat materials within the next 10 years. We intend to monitor—initially, over the next three years—what further progress is made in increasing the usage of alternatives such as through the greater use of recycled and waste materials.

The framework for updating old permissions for peat extraction, with particular emphasis on rehabilitation, has the support of the industry. The framework will have statutory force when the Environment Bill becomes law later this year, with the industry putting forward to mineral planning authorities updated schemes of conditions for their sites.

Copies of the new guidance note are placed in the Libraries of both Houses.