Planning and Architecture
Scottish Coal Task Force
Surface coal mining is a significant and extensive land use across Scottish coalfields which extend from Fife in the east across the Lothians, North and South Lanarkshire to East Ayrshire in the south west.
In 2013 when Scottish Coal and ATH folded, it soon became clear that there was insufficient bond money to restore many sites to anything like full pre-mine condition. That signalled the potential to manage the operation of future sites more effectively.
A Coal Task Force was formed by the Scottish Government in 2013 throwing a number of UK Government, energy and planning policy matters into sharp relief.
With restoration at the heart of the matter, two task force sub-groups developed advice and recommendations on how to enhance site monitoring processes and in particular the financial guarantee landscape. They shared information with the mining engineering, environment, banking, industry and community sectors. That was captured in a 2015 report to the Task Force recommending a number of planning process enhancements to secure more certainty, transparency and oversight. The Scottish Government is working to implement over 25 recommendations.
Their work has also highlighted the need for training, upskilling and mutual support amongst planning authorities. That’s being driven by Heads of Planning Scotland with support from the Improvement Service with Scottish Government funding.
There’s a consensus on the importance of effective site monitoring and understanding the financial components of restoration guarantees normally held under the wrapper of a legal agreement or in some cases a planning condition.
The Task Force has now met ten times. Flowing from the Task Force’s work on planning, Scottish Government proposes public consultations on monitoring fees and notification of planning application arrangements.
Following a ministerial meeting with environmental NGOs, the Task Force is now focusing on exchanges with UK Government on environmental liabilities.
Surface Coal Mine Restoration -Towards Better Regulation – A final report to the Scottish Opencast Coal Task Force by its Compliance and Finance Subgroups, is now live.