Towards a Minerals Local Plan for Derbyshire and Derby

Towards a Strategy for Deep Mined 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 and did not address the possibility of further deep coal mining developments. Accordingly it is necessary to address this matter specifically and in light of current government policy and wider circumstances to establish what strategy, if any, for future deep mined coal extraction should be included in the new Plan.

7.2    Issue 1: Making provision for possible future deep mined coal extraction

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 may be acceptable. In the absence of any additional statements it is assumed that this could apply to coal extraction from deep mining. The County and City Councils do 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 for surface mining developments during the Plan period and certainly could not attempt to identify sites where deep mined coal extraction could take place. It is also acknowledged that, in current circumstances it is unlikely that the mining industry will seek to reopen old deep mines or develop new ones. Never the less deep coal resources are present in the Plan area and Government policy requires mineral planning authorities to make provision for the extraction of mineral resource of local and national importance in their area. Accordingly the Plan will include for the possibility that coal could be extracted from deep mines during the Plan period.

[1] Paragraph 143 of the National Planning Policy Framework, March 2012.

7.3    Issue 2: How should the plan develop a policy approach for proposals for deep mine coal extraction

         The NPPF[1] and NPPG state that minerals local plans should set out environmental criteria against which planning applications will be assessed so as to ensure that permitted developments do not have unacceptable adverse impacts. The NPPG states that the environmental impact of coal extraction should be considered in the same way as for other minerals and paragraph 149 of the NPPF sets out tests for the acceptability of coal extraction developments. This does not differentiate between surface mining and deep mining and so it can be assumed that these could and should apply to deep mining proposals. The NPPG however, does acknowledge that underground coal mining can raise additional issues, including the potential effects of subsidence, the potential hazards of old mine workings, monitoring and preventative measures for potential gas emissions and the method of disposal of colliery spoil. Accordingly, it is suggested the Plan develops a policy which applies these tests to any proposals for the extraction of coal by deep mining.

7.4    Issue 3: Inclusion of a separate and specific policy for deep mined coal

         If you agree that the Plan should include tests to be set out in a policy to be applied to any proposals for deep mined coal extraction we are also seeking your views about how the policy or policies could be presented in the Plan. We are seeking your views about whether to include these tests as an addendum to the main coal extraction policy where the main focus would be on surface mining or whether the Plan should include a separate policy specifically for deep mined coal developments.

         Option 1: Do not include a separate and specific policy for deep mined coal extraction

         The use of one policy for all forms of coal mining and related development would provide a clear and unambiguous set of tests. Many of the tests would be applicable to both methods of coal extraction. It is also possible that some issues which would need to be taken into consideration for deep mine coal developments would be different or additional to those for surface mining, however it would be possible to formulate a policy such that separate or additional tests could apply to either surface or deep coal mining. This approach would avoid any possible ambiguity and duplication.

         Option 2: Include a separate and specific policy for deep mined coal extraction

         You may consider that the issues that would need to be taken into consideration in the assessment of proposals for the extraction of coal from deep mines are sufficiently different from those for surface mining to warrant a separate policy. In that case the use of separate policies would demonstrate those differences in the decision making process.

7.5    Issue 4: The range of tests or criteria to be applied to proposals for the extraction of coal from deep mines

         If you do consider it appropriate and necessary to include a separate and specific policy for deep mine coal we need to ascertain what criteria and tests you think that it should contain. The summary of Government policy above identifies the tests for determining the acceptability of coal extraction developments but, as in the case for surface mining developments you may consider that this does not include all the relevant tests and criteria that deep mine coal developments in the Plan area would generate. This consultation paper therefore repeats the question posed in the corresponding consultation paper for surface coal mining.

         Option 1: Include only those matters identified in the National Planning Policy Framework (see paragraph 2.1 re paragraph 149) and the National Planning Practice Guidance (see paragraph 148). 

         Option 1 would comply with the policy guidance in the NPPF and NPPG. It would include the tests relating to those deep mining impacts identified in the NPPG. In addition 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 and the National Planning Practice Guidance also include other tests of acceptability for deep mined 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 NPPG identifies some specific environmental issues for deep coal mining in general you may consider there to be additional issues which have or will arise in the Plan area. Similarly the NPPF indicates the need to include community benefits in the matters to be weighed against any adverse environmental impacts but it does not refer to the potential adverse social and economic impacts of coal mining development which you have referred to in previous consultations. The NPPF identifies the social and economic roles as two 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.