Oldham is both a Mineral Planning Authority and a Waste Planning Authority, and operates as a unitary authority in respect of all planning matters relating to these specialised types of development in exactly the same way as for all other types of development.
At present there is only one active mineral-working site within Oldham, at High Moor Quarry, Scouthead, which produces a range of graded gritstone aggregate as well as building stone. There are, however, known reserves of both sandstone/gritstone, clay and sand and gravel in various parts of the Borough, which have been worked in the past, and for the commercial exploitation of which mineral operating companies may in the future seek to secure new planning consents.
As would be expected in a densely built-up area such as Oldham, the Borough contains within its boundaries a number of facilities for both the treatment and disposal of waste, originating from domestic, commercial and industrial premises, and from the construction and demolition sector. There are two major landfill sites currently operating: High Moor, where the worked-out areas of the gritstone quarry are being sequentially filled with imported waste of many types and from a variety of sources; and Beal Valley, which accepts only 'inert' waste (uncontaminated excavated soils and hardcore).
Planning consent also exists for the infilling of a smaller site: Birks Quarry, at Austerlands, although in this instance the landowner is delaying the start of landfilling works. From time to time planning permission is given for the infilling of much smaller areas, where it can be demonstrated that an environmental gain will ensue; for example, small, localised depressions on agricultural land which cannot be safely mown or grazed in their existing state, and whose loss would not represent a downgrading of local landscape quality.
Driven both by the increasing difficulty in identifying suitable sites for the landfilling of waste in areas such as Oldham, and the legislative and planning policy changes which are discouraging landfill and landraising as a waste management option of first resort, a number of enterprises which revolve around the treatment, processing or transfer loading of waste have established themselves throughout the Borough. Some of these deal exclusively in a particular waste stream; for example, the collection, de-gassing and refurbishment of fridges and freezers; the recovery of industrial solvents; and the stripping down of sodium lamps into their component materials for recycling.
Others, often in conjunction with the operation of skip hire businesses, deal in a wider range of mixed waste, but separate these collected materials into recyclable consignments of, e.g. glass, paper and cardboard, clean timber, plastics, etc., in much the same way that Civic Amenity sites, operated by the Waste Disposal Authority, now almost universally do, leaving greatly reduced final volumes of unreclaimable residual wastes for ultimate disposal via landfill.
Scrap yards are, from a planning point of view, simply a specialised type of waste recovery facility, producing a valuable raw material, which can be used in the metal manufacturing industry as a substitute for virgin ores.
Will I need planning permission to establish a new or to extend an existing mineral working, or to use land for the storage, treatment or disposal of waste?
The answer to this will almost certainly be 'yes' - remember that these types of operation constitute 'development', as defined by planning legislation, just as much as the construction of new buildings or any other change in the use of land or buildings. In the first instance, you are strongly advised to contact the Planning Administration Team in Planning Services (tel. no. 0161 770 4105), for advice on the procedures that will need to be followed. In addition to the 'standard' planning application form, supplementary Part 5 (in the case of minerals development) and Part 6 (in the case of waste related development) forms will need to be completed, which ask for further detailed information on the nature of the proposed development. In the case of certain major proposals, an Environmental Statement may be required, in accordance with the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999.
Whilst there are certain very limited exceptions to the need to obtain express planning consent for all waste-related development; for instance, in the case of small-scale deposits of waste on agricultural land, strict criteria apply and anyone contemplating this type of operation should contact the department first to obtain the necessary guidance. The safest course of action would be to assume that any such proposal would require consent. It is important to bear in mind that 'waste' is defined from the producer's standpoint, and that materials which may eventually be put to productive further use are likely to be considered to constitute waste when first brought on to a site.
In addition to the securing of planning consent, the operation of a waste management, treatment or disposal facility will normally require the issuing of a Waste Management Licence (soon to be replaced by a Permit under the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Regulations 2000) from the Environment Agency. All applicants are strongly advised to contact the Agency's local office at Warrington (tel. no. 01925 840000) to discuss current requirements.