Towards a Minerals Local Plan for Derbyshire and Derby

Towards a Strategy for Coal

Next Steps

7       Next Steps

7.1    The Issues and Options consultation exercise was undertaken in the context of a different national and regional policy framework. Accordingly, it is necessary to reconsider the extent to which the Issues and Options Report and the responses to it remain relevant and to decide if it can help inform the debate and development of alternatives for the strategy for coal. In order to develop the new MLP we now need to seek to establish a strategy for the provision of coal and work towards the formulation of new policies to be included in the new Plan to deliver the chosen strategy.

7.2    Issue 1: Identifying Future Coal Extraction Areas

From the responses you have made to previous consultation exercises it is evident that one of the main issues that the MLP will have to address is where coal mining will and will not be allowed to take place. The NPPF recognises that minerals (including coal) are essential to support sustainable economic growth and our quality of life and that it is essential to provide for a sufficient supply of those minerals to meet the needs of society. It also recognises that minerals are a finite natural resource and can only be worked where they are found and indicates that mineral planning authorities should indicate any areas where coal extraction and the disposal of colliery spoil may be acceptable. Taking account of the messages from previous consultations and the advice in the NPPF and NPPG, this paper presents three options for the approach towards the identification of future coal mining areas.

Option 1: Identify on a plan the extent of the shallow coal resource and separately list the main environmental, social and economic constraints to coal mining development.

The emerging outcome of the Issues and Options exercise was that one option would be for the Minerals Local Plan to identify on a map the general extent of the shallow coal resource and also to identify the main constraints, although the way in which the constraints would be presented was not established. This approach would not conflict with the policy and advice in the NPPF and NPPG, which, unlike the situation for some other minerals, does not require the identification of specific areas or sites for future coal extraction or set out the need for a specific landbank provision figure.

This option could be achieved within the information which is available to the County and City Councils. It would represent a flexible approach where all the remaining coal resources (in effect one large area of search) could be subject to appropriate, detailed consideration and would avoid imposing any targets or limits on the amount of coal that could be extracted. It would not automatically exclude any of the resource from future consideration. It would also avoid the potential for planning blight arising from the identification of specific sites or areas for future coal working. In accordance with the advice in the NPPF the responsibility for developing individual proposals would be placed in the hands of the mining industry.

Due to the nature of most of the likely constraints to future coal mining development it would be very difficult to portray them clearly and in sufficient detail on a small plan or key diagram within the MLP. The most appropriate way to present these constraints would be in tabular form which could cross-reference to more detailed plans where appropriate.

Option 2: Identify on a plan the broad locations where coal extraction may be acceptable. If you favour this option please indicate the methodology you would use to help define these broad locations.

In combination with a set of constraints, this approach could help to provide general guidance as to the broad locations where coal extraction may be suitable, and would therefore conform to the NPPF which states that mineral planning authorities should 'indicate any areas where coal extraction and the disposal of colliery spoil may be acceptable'. Conversely it could be perceived as implying an automatic right to extract coal in those areas. This option is also limited by the information which is available to the Councils on the extent and commercial viability of the remaining resource. Many parts of the coalfields in Derbyshire have been subject to previous working, often with poor record keeping, such that the extent of the remaining resources in those areas is unknown or the information available is insufficient to identify the area as a suitable working area. In those parts of the coalfields where previous working has been less extensive there is a similar level of uncertainty about the scale of the remaining resource. The level of information about the target coal reserves which is now required to support modern planning applications for coal extraction is extensive, involving detailed ground investigation surveys. This type of survey work is expensive and is not proportionate to the resources available.

Whether this option presents a real alternative depends on the breadth and extent of the areas identified. If the areas were set extensively then they could be expressed and function as areas of search rather than areas where there was a presumption in favour of coal extraction.

In summary it would appear that the only informative approach that could be adopted in the MLP would be to identify areas of search where coal resources still exists, where it is possible that they represent a commercially viable resource and where extraction could potentially be acceptable. The usefulness of this approach depends on the information available and the extent of the areas of search.

Option 3: Identify on a plan specific sites where coal extraction could be suitable.

 Please note that this requires sites to be brought forward by the mining industry or individuals. To date no specific sites have been brought forward but if you do have any suggestions please let us know.

The identification of specific sites where future coal mining could be suitable would provide useful information for the coal mining industry. It would help the mining industry to focus attention on those sites where there was a reasonable likelihood that development proposals could be acceptable and avoid the cost and associated distress to the communities involved in seeking approval for development on inappropriate sites. Conversely, a negative consequence of this approach would be that it could be mistakenly seen as committing the mineral planning authorities to granting approval for future applications on those sites. Irrespective of being identified in the Plan, all planning applications on such sites would have to be assessed on their respective merits, taking account of factors such as the proposed method of working and transport arrangements and any other relevant material planning considerations. It could also be seen as forming a landbank and committing the authorities to a specific level of coal extraction during the Plan period, although this is not a requirement of the NPPF. Additionally, in climate change terms, it could be seen as pre-empting the use of coal in preference to other alternatives, as highlighted in the Interim Sustainability Appraisal.

The identification of individual sites, even ones suggested to the authorities, would require a level of knowledge about the remaining resource which is not available to the County and City Councils. Whilst the extent of the coalfields is known, information about the scale and commercial viability of the remaining resource on individual sites is not. Even in those areas where previous coal extraction has taken place the limitations of the record keeping, especially in the older mines, may prevent accurate assessments of the remaining resource. If this approach is supported, the Plan policies will also need to deal with proposals for coal extraction which come forward outside any specific sites.

7.3    Issue 2: Surface Mining Constraint Areas

Although there was support in the Issues and Options consultation for the continued use of surface mining constraint areas, their use in new minerals plans is not included in the NPPF. The stated reason was that such a designation would not now grant any statutory, additional levels of protection to the particular areas. Designation would not mean that all planning applications for coal extraction on sites falling within constraint areas would be automatically refused.

Option 1: Not to identify and include surface mining constraint areas in the new Minerals Local Plan.

This option accords with the policy and advice in the NPPF. On the basis that such a designation does not mean that there is a presumption against surface mining development in those areas it can be argued therefore that they no longer serve any purpose and should not be included in a mineral local plan. All proposals would have to be assessed against the policy considerations of the MLP irrespective of where they are located.

Option 2: Adopt a different method of identifying constraints to surface mining. If you consider there to be an alternative to the use of surface mining constraint areas please say what it is and how it could be developed.

The questions posed in the Issues and Options consultation are no longer considered to represent a feasible option for the MLP in light of the changes to planning policy and guidance. The NPPF already requires that minerals local plans should identify environmental constraints to surface mining developments to be used in conjunction with a set of environmental criteria and it is intended that the MLP will follow this policy. You may, however consider there to be an alternative way of depicting constraints, including social and economic constraints.

7.4    Issue 3: Sustainable Principles for the Provision for Coal Extraction

In Issues 1 and 2 above we asked about the emerging, broad approach to future coal mining in the new MLP, focusing on where development may and may not take place.  Derbyshire County Council and Derby City Council are the mineral planning authorities for their respective areas and have a duty to determine planning applications for coal related development proposals. The NPPF indicates that, at the detailed level, this process should include the use of a criterion based policy or policies so as to ensure that permitted developments do not have unacceptable adverse impacts and the new MLP will need to comply with this requirement. The range of criteria that can be included in the policy is identified in the NPPF and the NPPG. Prior to this we want to ascertain your views as to the sustainable principles which should underlie this policy. This is in addition to the overarching strategic sustainability principles for the MLP we are asking you about in the separate paper; Towards Strategic Sustainability Principles – September 2014 which will apply to all mineral developments. This will build on the overarching strategic sustainability principles and help develop in more detail the specific approach for coal extraction and for setting out the relevant criteria.

Based on these requirements and the messages you have made in response to earlier consultation exercises, the emerging sustainable principles particularly important for coal development are set out below.

7.5    Issue 4: The Need for a Specific Criterion Based Policy for Coal Extraction and Related Development Proposals

Whilst the setting of sustainable principles (Issue 3 above) will underpin  the broad approach to new coal development proposals it will only indicate the minimum requirements which each proposal would be expected to meet. It would not provide the basis for a detailed assessment of the pros and cons of individual planning applications.

As referred to above, the NPPF requires that local minerals plans should set out environmental criteria against which planning applications for all types of mineral will be assessed, although it does not prevent the use of additional policies for the assessment of specific minerals such as that provided by Policy MP 27: Coal Extraction and Colliery Spoil Disposal of the adopted Derby and Derbyshire Minerals Local Plan. In the Issues and Options exercise you indicated a preference for the inclusion of another policy with similar requirements. We are now seeking your views about whether you still want the MLP to include another policy which distils the four sustainable principles listed above specifically in relation to coal developments.

Option 1: Include in the Minerals Local Plan another specific coal related policy for the assessment of coal related development proposals based on the four sustainable principles above.

In addition to the setting out of environmental criteria against which mineral developments would be assessed, the NPPF sets out additional social and economic tests for coal mining developments. These need to be incorporated into the Minerals Local Plan but would not be appropriate for inclusion in a policy based on environmental criteria alone, implying the need for a separate, additional policy. Option 1 would therefore enable coal mining developments to be assessed against all the policy requirements of the NPPF and the sustainable principles from Issue 3. Policy MP27 of the current adopted Derby and Derbyshire Minerals Local Plan may provide a base for a new policy but it would have to be updated to reflect the current requirements of the NPPF and, assuming that you continue to support the inclusion of a separate coal policy, your views on the detail of that policy are sought in the issue below.

Option 2: Not include a specific coal related policy and rely on the provisions and tests of the environmental criteria and other, general policies of the Minerals Local Plan.

This option would restrict the number of policies in the Plan and enable a consistent set of criteria and tests to be applied to all mineral developments but it may not incorporate all the relevant policy requirements of the NPPF and result in some important aspects of coal mining developments not being considered.

7.6    Issue 5: In Addition to the Environmental Criteria Policy, What Additional Matters Should be Included in a Separate and Specific Coal Development Policy?  (Note: the incorporation of the sustainable principles will be dependent on the responses to Issues 3 and 4 above).

If you do consider it appropriate and necessary to include a separate and specific policy for coal mining developments we need to ascertain what criteria and tests you think that it should contain.

Option 1: Include only those matters identified in the National Planning Policy Framework (see paragraph 2.1 re paragraph 149 of the NPPF).

Option 1 would comply with the policy guidance in the NPPF. It would add economic and some social tests in terms of 'benefits' to the environmental criteria set out in a separate policy, providing an assessment format which covered the three elements of sustainable development as stated in the NPPF.

Option 2: In addition to those matters listed in the National Planning Policy Framework also include other tests of acceptability for coal developments. If you support this option, please indicate the additional matters that you consider should be included in the policy and your reasons for your suggestion.

Whilst the NPPF indicates the need to include community benefits in the matters to be considered against adverse environmental impacts it does not refer to the potential adverse social and economic impacts of coal mining development. The NPPF identifies the social and economic role as one of the three aspects contributing towards sustainable development and it may be appropriate to include adverse impacts to local communities, where appropriate, in the policy tests. The NPPF states that the benefits of mineral extraction to the local and national economy should be taken in to consideration but coal mining developments could result in adverse impacts on a local economy which should also be considered in the overall assessment of a proposed coal development.

Note; this is not intended to cover cumulative impacts which is addressed in the issue below.

7.7    Issue 6: Methodology for the Assessment of Cumulative Impacts

Local plans should reflect the character and circumstances of the area they cover. The new MLP will reflect the distinctive local character of Derbyshire and Derby and will take account of the circumstances which have made the area unique. In the consultation paper Towards Strategic Sustainability Principles, September 2014, we ask for your views on matters which you consider to be more locally distinctive to Derbyshire and Derby, including the broad issue of cumulative impacts. In Issue 3 above we also ask whether you consider cumulative impacts to be one of the criteria for the Sustainable Principles which should be applied particularly to the provision for coal mining. The message from previous consultation exercises is that you consider the coal mining industry to be one of the main contributors to the adverse cumulative impacts experienced in the Plan area. If you do agree that cumulative impacts should be included we need to determine how those cumulative impacts will be quantified and assessed.  We are now asking for your views about the methodology to be used to assess the cumulative impacts of coal mining developments.

Further more detailed information regarding cumulative impact is available in the Cumulative Impacts Supporting Paper, January 2015.

 

In order to provide a context for this issue it is necessary to provide a brief summary of the mining history of the Plan area.

Whilst there are now only two active coal extraction sites in the Plan area, the picture would have looked very different fifty years ago. In the middle of the 20th century coal mining was a major industry, with over fifty collieries, employing some 60,000 people. Collieries in the Plan area made a significant contribution to the national production of coal which peaked at 225 million tonnes in 1955. The collieries covered large areas of land and often involved unsightly structures and waste tips and where the processes undertaken led to pollution and contamination. The developments generated high levels of vehicle movements which also impacted on the wider environments where people lived and worked.

The mining industry supported other ancillary industries such as coking plants and provided the fuel for other traditional industries such as local metals based engineering businesses. These industries provided a significant number of jobs but also had a profound impact on the area in terms of the visual appearance of the facilities and associated tips, the impacts of noise and dust and a legacy of long-term pollution.

Regeneration initiatives are resulting in the gradual remediation of some of these former sites leading to the recovery and redevelopment of the area. Many of the former colliery sites have now been redeveloped or subject to extensive landscaping schemes which have helped them to assimilate into the surrounding areas. Heavily contaminated sites such as the former Avenue and Grassmoor Coking Works sites near Chesterfield are currently being remediated. The former will provide a large site for new housing development, recreational facilities and biodiversity features and the later will be incorporated into the existing Country Park. In the coalfield as a whole however, many old industrial buildings remain, often in derelict condition or, in some case, the sites have been cleared of buildings but otherwise remain untouched, leaving a long term reminder of the areas mining and industrial legacy.

Whilst the mining industry caused some environmental problems it did provide a significant number of jobs and the loss of those jobs over a relatively short period had a profound social impact on some areas, particularly those where the local economy was reliant on one or a few major employers. In particular, the mining towns and villages of eastern Derbyshire together with those in the adjoining coalfields of Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire have suffered in this respect.

The closure of the mines and other related industries has not brought about an end to the activities that can generate cumulative impacts. Coal, like all other minerals, can only be worked where it occurs and unfortunately the areas where the remaining coal reserves occur coincide with the areas where the former mining and other traditional industries were based. Some of the sites which have been subject to surface mining developments in recent years involve the sites of former deep mine collieries,  sites which have been subject to previous surface workings of the shallower seams, or have involved the sites of other former traditional industries. These new developments have extended the period of disruption to the respective areas although the latter category has had the benefit of enabling the remediation of some longstanding derelict sites.

Option 1: Adopt a methodology to quantify and assess cumulative impacts of coal mining developments using only the relevant criteria set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.

In response to previous consultation exercises and particularly in the observations provided in response to publicity on mineral and waste management planning applications you have indicated that cumulative impacts have been a significant issue and that a robust framework should be established for assessing the potential cumulative impacts of future coal mining and other major minerals and waste management developments. The cumulative impact criteria stated in the NPPF include the cumulative effects of multiple impacts from individual sites and/or a number of sites in a locality, but it does not expand on the scope of the assessment. For the historic reasons summarised above, in the case of Derbyshire and Derby, it may be that this is too narrow a view of cumulative impacts and does not properly reflect all the factors which should be taken into account. You may consider that local circumstances merit the inclusion of additional tests of cumulative impacts.

Option 2: Adopt a methodology to quantify and assess cumulative impacts of coal mining developments incorporating successive effects, simultaneous effects from concurrent developments and the combined effects from the same developments

Whilst the concept of cumulative impacts is widely recognised it is a very difficult issue to assess in an objective manner. Many of the factors involved are not able to be expressed in simple numerical terms and it may be difficult to provide sufficient evidence to be able to demonstrate in a substantive manner that a new development would give rise to unacceptable cumulative impacts. In response to previous planning applications and local plan consultations you have indicated that cumulative impacts should be assessed against a bar or threshold and, in the case of Derbyshire and Derby, that bar should be set at a high level of acceptability.

Whilst there is no formal national or local methodology, two recent cases have set out an approach to the assessment of cumulative impacts which may be appropriate for use in the Minerals Local Plan (Mr Justice Burton on Long Moor and the Inspector/Secretary of State in the Telford case). The methodology adopted in these cases consisted of i) successive effects, ii) simultaneous effects from concurrent developments, and iii) combined effects from the same developments. This provides additional criteria, adding clarity to the impacts built up over time and those from other non-mineral related developments.

Option 3: Adopt a different methodology and criteria to quantify and assess cumulative impacts of coal mining developments.  If you consider that there are other aspects of cumulative impact that should be taken into account or another methodology should be used, please indicate the form and scope of them and the reasons why they should be included in the Plan.

7.8    Issue 7: How to Assess the Benefits of Coal Extraction and Other Coal Related Developments

The NPPF states that permission should not be given for the extraction of coal unless the proposal is environmentally acceptable, or can be made so by planning conditions or obligations; or if not, it provides national, local or community benefits which clearly outweigh the likely impacts to justify the grant of planning permission. This adds national benefits to the list of benefits included in the existing policy (MP27) in the adopted Derby and Derbyshire Minerals Local Plan.    

The NPPF does not define the range of benefits in each category and does not advise how to assess those benefits against impacts. The main national benefits however, are the supply of coal from indigenous sources and the corresponding reduction in the need for imports, as well as the contribution to the country’s energy requirements. The review of National Energy Policy above indicates that whilst the proportion of our energy supplies derived from coal has declined in recent years it will continue to play an important role in the first part of the Plan period, although there is more uncertainty thereafter. The supply of coal from indigenous sources rather than the country being wholly reliant on imports provides a greater degree of safety and contributes towards reducing our balance of trade deficit.

Local and community benefits are inter-related and some of the benefits could be described as being both local and community. These could include the provision of jobs and apprenticeships although for many surface mining developments these are often short term and not all the jobs generated by a coal development will be available to people of the local area. The mining industry has supported a range of other companies providing ancillary services such as those making equipment used in coal extraction. The continuation of mining activity in an area could help safeguard jobs in other local engineering companies. In turn this could help the retention of particular skills in the area. 

Other local and community benefits could be derived from the removal of contamination or dereliction from a site that would not otherwise be possible or financially viable without the coal extraction operations. Other site based benefits could be derived where previous coal or other developments have involved poor standards of restoration, where the new development could result in improvements to the ground conditions and the agricultural or other usage of the land. Other benefits could involve improvements to local services or the highway network from contributions by the operator. In some cases it may be necessary to improve the standard of road junctions or provide other safety based works to the highway in order for the development to be made acceptable and these improvements would endure long after the completion of the coal development. In recent years financial benefits have been obtained from a levy imposed on the value of the coal extracted which is then used to fund other social based needs in the area, such as improvements to local sports pitches. This enables the local community to share directly in the overall benefits that can be obtained from coal developments and to express what improvements their community needs. It is important however, that these benefits are genuine, that they relate to the development and to the area, and are not merely offered as inducements to sway the mineral planning authorities or the local community in favour of developments that would otherwise be unacceptable. Benefits should not be a means of ‘buying’ planning permission.

The determination of all development proposals involves an assessment of the respective benefits and any adverse impacts and decisions often rest on the assessed balance between the two. The point at which the value of national, local and community benefits of coal mining developments could outweigh any adverse impacts is difficult to determine but it is a judgement that the mineral planning authorities will have to make. It is therefore important that the MLP provides an appropriate framework for these decisions. It is why we want all local communities to help to identify the type of benefits that can and should be taken into consideration and to establish the level of the benefits that would be required to offset any otherwise unacceptable impacts. Clarification of these matters would help inform the local planning process. It would provide guidance to potential applicants about the standards applications would be expected to achieve and would enable the local communities involved to know that permission would be granted to only those proposals that meet the minimum level of requirements.

Option 1: That for coal mining developments the Minerals Local Plan includes a policy which reflects the requirement in the NPPF where the benefits include national, local or community benefits, but leaves the assessment of those benefits to be determined on a case by case basis taking account of local circumstances and after consultation with the local community. 

This option would accord with the NPPF in terms of the range of benefits. It would not define the form and nature of the benefits which could and should be taken in to consideration or the weight that should be afforded to them, but would be a flexible approach which allowed each case to be considered on its merits. Through appropriate consultation measures it would also involve the local community directly in the debate about benefits. The flexibility provided by this option may be useful in the future to address the issues raised by any new technological developments that may be introduced into coal mining or there was any change in Government policy on the issue of benefits.

Option 2: That for coal mining developments the Minerals Local Plan includes a policy which provides clear guidance about the range of national, local or community benefits that will be taken into account in the consideration of development proposals and which establishes the minimum level of benefits that would be required to outweigh applications which are otherwise environmentally unacceptable.

The NPPF refers to a situation where the benefits clearly outweigh the environmental costs, and whilst in some cases this may be readily apparent, there will be cases where the situation is not so clear cut.  This option could help to establish a clear framework to help resolve these difficult issues by clarifying which benefits should be taken into account and how to compare them to adverse environmental impacts. In contrast it could form a rigid and inflexible approach which did not fully take account of local circumstances, of the views of the local community or any change in circumstances over the Plan period.

7.9    Issue 8: Prior Extraction of Coal

Due to the abundance of shallow coal measures in some parts of the County it is likely that there will continue to be some non-mineral development proposals where it will be necessary to extract and remove the coal lying close to the surface prior to the development proceeding.  This can be for a variety of reasons including structural integrity issues, where it is necessary to remove the soft coal to ensure that buildings have suitable foundations, and for health and safety reasons where the removal of the coal or the treatment of old mine entrances, would prevent the release of contaminants or gases into the new buildings.  An added benefit of the prior extraction of coal at that stage is that it would provide an amount of coal and avoid the long-term and possibly permanent sterilisation of those reserves. The issue of safeguarding of all important mineral resources is explained in a separate paper; Minerals Safeguarding Supporting Paper, September 2014, and in this consultation we are seeking your views about whether the MLP should include a specific policy concerning situations where there may be a need to extract coal close to the surface prior to another development.

Government policy supports the prior extraction of coal in principle. The NPPF requires local planning authorities to set out policies to encourage the prior extraction of all minerals, where practicable and environmentally feasible, if it is necessary to enable non-mineral development to take place. The existing Derby and Derbyshire Minerals Local Plan includes two policies which refer to the prior extraction of minerals. Policy MP17 refers to the prior extraction of minerals in general whereas Policy MP27 focuses on the prior extraction of coal only. In response to the Issues and Options consultation you indicated a preference to continue with this approach, but it is necessary to revisit the subject in light of the NPPF and to obtain your current views as to the approach we should take now.

Option 1: Maintain the approach of the adopted Derby and Derbyshire Minerals Local Plan and include a policy specifically for the prior extraction of coal and a separate policy for the prior extraction of other minerals. Both policies would set out criteria for the acceptability of prior extraction.

Option 1 would enable the inclusion of a policy and criteria which relate to the prior extraction of minerals in general and a separate policy which related to the specific factors involved in the prior extraction of coal.

Option 2: Include only one policy relating to the prior extraction of all minerals.

The use of a single policy would provide one clear statement about the criteria that could be used to assess proposals for the prior extraction of all minerals in the Plan area. It could set out different criteria for different minerals, where appropriate, and would avoid any confusion about the policy that should be used to test the acceptability of a proposal.

7.10  Issue 9: Reworking of Colliery Spoil Tips

The NPPF does not address the issue of the reworking former colliery spoil tips directly but it does advocate the sustainable and prudent use of our mineral resources. In this respect it highlights the advantages of using secondary materials in preference to the extraction of primary materials. It therefore gives implicit support for this form of development. In response to the Issues and Options consultation exercise you indicated support in principle for the reworking of old tips and favoured the inclusion of a criteria based policy to determine the acceptability of development proposals. Policy MP15 in the current adopted Minerals Local Plan refers to the working of former tips but specifically excludes developments for the purposes of producing secondary aggregates. The guidance and tests it provides are also limited, being restricted to stating that proposals where the land has been satisfactorily reclaimed or naturally re-generated to an acceptable degree will be considered as a new proposal on a greenfield site.

The consultation paper Towards Strategic Sustainability Principles, September 2014 asks for your views concerning support for the production of secondary aggregates in general but we are also seeking your views separately on the reworking of former colliery spoil tips in light of the policy guidance in the NPPF and for the purposes of obtaining all the other valuable and reusable mineral resources within them.

The coal processing plant used at collieries in the 20th Century were generally inefficient by modern standards and resulted in substantial quantities of coal being deposited in the spoil tips along with other discarded materials. Advances in coal processing technology now make it possible to recover the coal from these tips, although the viability varies in accordance with the price of coal and the quantity available. Some of the tips also contain other materials which were previously regarded as waste (for example red shale) but are now in demand. The recent reworking of the former spoil tip for the Brookhill and Langton collieries on the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire border is a recent example of this form of development.

The reworking of spoil tips would help to reduce the need for coal and other minerals to be obtained from new sites. In addition, the reworking of spoil tips has the potential to facilitate the improvement of those sites that did not benefit from a high standard of reclamation at the time and which detract from the environment and character of the area. The operations to rework these tips involve substantial engineering works requiring the use of large machinery and other plant such as screening and washing equipment. These activities therefore have the potential for adverse environmental impacts which need to be balanced against the benefits of the minerals obtained.

The programme of reclamation undertaken in Derbyshire during the last forty years has included most of the former colliery sites and there are very few spoil tips which have now not been subject to some level of treatment. It is possible however, that proposals could come forward for reworking not only those sites where minimal reclamation works have been carried out but also on those former spoil tips which have been successfully treated and have assimilated into the surrounding landscape due to a combination of the potential financial rewards and pressures for the prudent and sustainable use of our remaining reserves. It is important that the new Plan addresses this form of potential development.

Option 1: Include in the Minerals Local Plan a separate criteria based policy for the reworking of former colliery spoil tips for coal and any other mineral. If you favour this approach please indicate the criteria which you consider to be appropriate.

Many of the issues that would have to be addressed in the determination of proposals for the reworking of former spoil tips would be similar to those relating to other surface mining extraction developments. For example, both would involve major engineering operations and the potential to generate noise and dust. However, the inclusion of a criterion based policy specifically for the reworking of former tips would provide additional benefits. It could help focus attention on those issues which are specific to these developments and which may not be covered in the main policy for coal operations. It could specify the tests of acceptability, either separately or collectively, for tips that have already been remediated to a satisfactory standard and those that have not. It could also be used to specify the range of benefits that would be taken into account and how they would be weighed against any adverse impacts.

Option 2: Do not include a separate policy for the reworking of former colliery spoil tips and rely on the general criteria established in the main policy for coal extraction developments.

The reliance on the main coal policy would ensure that all coal based developments were assessed against similar criteria and tests, providing a consistent approach. However, this approach could exclude some relevant issues, depending on the wording of the main coal policy and the criteria it includes.