§ 11. Mr. Barnes
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to review minerals planning guidance note 3; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Robert B. Jones
Minerals planning guidance note 3 was fully reviewed and revised in July 1994. There are currently no plans to revise it again.
§ Mr. Barnes
Is the Minister aware that there are 15 opencast operations or applications in the north-east corner of Derbyshire, which are ripping its guts out, in addition to historic operations in the area? Should not mineral planning guidance notes take into account the cumulative aspects of the matter? They are supposed to take into account current and future operations, but they take no account of historic operations and they should do so. There should also be an investigation in north-east Derbyshire to establish whether the cumulative aspects of the matter are being taken into account.
§ Mr. Jones
That is incorrect. We take the strong view that local authorities, in drawing up plans for their areas, should include the criteria by which they will judge planning applications. They should, if appropriate, include 749 the cumulative effect of such applications. It is entirely the responsibility of Derbyshire county council and the hon. Gentleman's local authority to ensure that applications are processed in the right way.
§ Mr. Nigel Evans
I accept the need for minerals for construction and road building, but does my hon. Friend accept that the guidelines need to be sufficiently flexible to reflect the changing needs and priorities of certain areas—such as tourism in the Ribble valley—to ensure that the local authority has sufficient protection to be able, in certain circumstances, to turn down certain planning applications from companies in my constituency?
§ Mr. Jones
Authorities' local plans should be flexible, so that they can respond to changing circumstances. As my hon. Friend knows, every planning application must be dealt with on its merits, and if the merits—or disbenefits—change, that is a material consideration for the local authority to consider.
§ Ms Ruddock
Is the Minister aware that the test of environmental acceptability in the revised guidance of which the Secretary of State today boasted is proving a farce because the Coal Industry Act 1994 requires sites to be sold on the best available terms? Does he agree that environmental criteria should be included in "best available terms" and, if they are, can he explain why the ecologically important site of Shilo north in Broxtowe has been sold to RJB Mining in preference to the conservation bid made by that local authority in the interests of the community?
§ Mr. Jones
"Best available terms" must necessarily reflect the obligations that any owner has to make environmental improvements or to accept environmental controls over what it does, and the need to take a risk on the likelihood or otherwise of gaining planning permission for any extensions. As there is no presumption in favour of development in green areas, it would be very difficult for such an applicant to prove a case unless the benefits considerably outweighed the environmental disadvantages.