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Penned by The Squire at Molecey Mill

The inherent bias of minerals officer’s recommendations in minerals and mining applications

Newsflash - The inherent bias of minerals officer’s recommendations in minerals and mining applications

A recent study has highlighted the inherent bias present in minerals officers' recommendations concerning minerals and mining applications. This bias stems from a flawed system in which minerals officers are tasked with evaluating applications they have been involved with since their inception, leading to compromised planning decisions.

Councillors who serve on planning committees must grasp the inherent bias and narrow perspective often exhibited by minerals and waste officers when evaluating mining planning applications. Rather than unquestioningly adhering to their recommendations, it is imperative for councillors to exercise independent scrutiny.

The communities directly impacted by mining operations depend greatly on councillors' diligent assessment of applications and recommendations.

It is noteworthy that minerals officers have never recommended the refusal of a quarry. Such a recommendation would imply a failure in their responsibility to effectively engage with the mining company during the application process.

Officers operate within a framework of national and local targets, as well as mineral plans, which exert pressure on them to achieve certain quotas and maintain sufficient land banks. This context may compromise their impartiality in evaluating the merits of an application.

The concept of land banks however holds little relevance for minerals officers, as their primary focus is often on maximizing mineral extraction without adequate regard for its impact on the community, landscape, ecology, or listed buildings. When questioned on need by councillors, and contrary to planning policies, minerals officers invariably reply that “need should not be considered a barrier to approval.”

Given the inherent prejudice and bias that officers may face, it becomes challenging to expect them to impartially weigh the merits of an application.

The responsibility rightly rests on the elected councillors to represent the communities most affected by the proposed plans. It is their duty to impartially assess the appropriate balances in accordance with established policies and frameworks.

In assessing relative harms, it is observed that minerals officers will always prioritize the benefits of mineral extraction over other equally if not more important considerations such as public health and amenity, cumulative impacts and heritage assets.

“It is like marking your own homework” the study finds.



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