ENVIRONMENTAL chiefs are calling on the Government to provide increased protection for communities faced by the adverse effects of mineral extraction.

Durham County Council, responding to consultation on new minerals planning guidance, is appealing to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to tighten the rules.

The proposals will modernise and update the present guidance and set out core policies for minerals planning in England.

The county council will have to have regard to the new guidance when preparing minerals planning documents for the county and in determining planning applications.

Councillor Bob Pendlebury, cabinet member for environment, said while the guidance was welcome, it still needed "more teeth" to strike a balance between the potential benefits that mineral supplies bring and the impact the process can have on the environment and local communities.

He said: "Given the long-term nature of minerals development, the Government should recognise that the present approach for financing the restoration and aftercare of sites is inadequate.

"At present, operators need only to demonstrate before planning permission is granted that they have the financial and technical capability to undertake the proposed restoration and aftercare.

"But this doesn't guarantee that sufficient funds will be available after the revenue-generating operations have been completed."

Coun Pendlebury said it was vitally important that the guidance was strong enough to ensure local communities were protected from the unacceptable, adverse environmental impact.

Consultation on Minerals Policy Statement 1 (MPS1) "Planning and Minerals" ends on Thursday.

For details on the county council's response to MPS1, call the planning policy team on 0191-383 4114.