Minerals Plan: Key Issues & Options

Derby & Derbyshire Minerals Core Strategy: Key Issues & Options

How do we manage the potential increase in demand for coal?


7.25 National guidance for the extraction of coal and the disposal of colliery waste as set out in MPG3, (published in March 1999) is to ensure that such development only takes place when the best balance has been achieved between community, social, environmental and economic interests, consistent with the principles of sustainable development.

7.26 As set out in MPG3, in applying the principles of sustainable development to coal extraction, and to colliery spoil disposal, the Government believes there should normally be a presumption against development unless the proposal would meet a series of tests.

National Energy Policy

7.27 The draft National Policy Statements for Energy, published in 2009 build on the 2007 White Paper and together set out the Government's international and domestic energy strategy to respond to the changing circumstances in global energy markets and to address the long term energy challenges of security of supply, whilst recognising and responding to the damaging implications of climate change. Within this framework, it is the Government's policy to maximise the economic recovery of all fossil fuels, including coal.

7.28 The Government envisages that future development of coal should be based on collaboration between stakeholders in the coal and power industries and government to secure the long term future of coal fired power generation, to optimise the use of national coal reserves where recovery is economic, and to stimulate investment in clean coal technologies and carbon capture and storage. Considerable investment has already been made in enabling existing coal-fired power stations to comply with new EU emissions legislation.

Sterilisation of Surface Coal Resources

7.29 As shown by comparing figures 1 and 4, the main areas of coal resources in Derbyshire coincide with the heavily urbanised areas of the east. As a result, potential for surface coal extraction is most likely to arise in advance of other development, either during reclamation of a brownfield site and/or remediation of a former colliery working or tip sites or as part of greenfield development. MPG3 advises that in principle, it is desirable to secure coal extraction prior to new development above coal resources, provided that it can be done within a reasonable timescale and in an environmentally acceptable way.

7.30 Additionally, at some sites it may be necessary to remove shallow coal deposits for land stability reasons and where previous shallow workings could seriously affect a planned development. This issue is dealt with in more detail in the safeguarding chapter.

Identifying Future Working Areas

7.31 MPG3 advises that Mineral Local Plans should indicate any areas where coal extraction and the disposal of colliery waste may be acceptable in principle and similarly where such development is unlikely to be acceptable or where coal resources are to be safeguarded for future working.

7.32 MPG3 acknowledges that the extent to which it will be possible to identify particular areas for development and the level of detail that can be shown in relation to possible sites, will depend upon local circumstances and the level of knowledge about the resource. It therefore suggests three alternative approaches:

  • Identify broad areas of search and/or
  • The extent of the shallow coalfield area and the constraints within that area
  • A combination of the two

7.33 As far as coal extraction is concerned within Derbyshire, the Mineral Planning Authority does not have the technical or commercial information on the quality and extent of deposits necessary to identify with any confidence those sites which might come forward during the plan period. Moreover, MPG3 states it is the job of the coal industry rather than the planning system to determine the level of coal production they wish to aim for.

7.34 The most appropriate manner in which to deal with this issue will probably be for the Minerals Core Strategy to indicate the general extent of the shallow coal field and define within that area the main areas of environmental constraints. Beyond this, a criteria based policy such as currently exists in the Minerals Local Plan will most likely be the most appropriate route in which to assess individual proposals.

7.35 Although we are not currently in a position to suggest possible sites for surface coal extraction in the Core Strategy, if sites do come forward it may be appropriate to consider whether to include them as allocations in the final document.

Issue 4: Identifying Future Working Areas for Coal Extraction (a)

Do you agree that a criteria based policy is the best way of dealing with the issues outlined above?

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Issue 4: Identifying Future Working Areas for Coal Extraction (b)

Please explain why you came to your decision in (a). If you disagreed, please suggest an alternative approach that we could take.

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Issue 4: Identifying Future Working Areas for Coal Extraction (c)

What are the environmental constraints to the identification of future working areas that should be defined?

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Identifying Environmental Constraints

7.36 MPG3 also advises that areas where working is unlikely to be acceptable should be indicated. In the current Minerals Local Plan these areas were defined as Opencast Constraint Areas. Experience gained dealing with planning applications since the publication of the Minerals Local Plan has shown Opencast Constraint Areas to be an effective means of protecting areas of acknowledged environmental importance. However, there may be a significant disadvantage for areas outside the constraint area.

7.37 Evidence from recent planning decisions may indicate that, where areas excluded from, but adjoin, an opencast constraint area, it can give the impression that the general presumption against development is somehow weaker in those areas and the threshold of environmental acceptability is lower.  Therefore, we will need to decide whether Opencast Constraint Areas should be designated in the Minerals Core Strategy.

Issue 5: Surface Mining Constraint Areas (a)

Should we designate surface mining constraint areas?

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Issue 5: Surface Mining Constraint Areas (b)

If so, should we follow the approach taken in the Minerals Local Plan, of identifying areas with a sufficient concentration of conservation designations to justify special protection?

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Issue 5: Surface Mining Constraint Areas (c)

What designations should they cover?

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Issue 5: Surface Mining Constraint Areas (d)

Or should we follow a different approach?

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