Surface coal mine restoration: final report to opencast coal task force

Final report on regulation by Scottish Opencast Coal Task Force's compliance and finance subgroups.


Scottish Planning Policy (extracts)

Planning Policy on minerals including coal is provided under the Promoting Responsible Extraction of Resources heading

NPF Context

234. Minerals make an important contribution to the economy, providing materials for construction, energy supply and other uses, and supporting employment. NPF3 notes that minerals will be required as construction materials to support our ambition for diversification of the energy mix. Planning should safeguard mineral resources and facilitate their responsible use. Our spatial strategy underlines the need to address restoration of past minerals extraction sites in and around the Central Belt.

Development planning

237. Local development plans should safeguard all workable mineral resources which are of economic or conservation value and ensure that these are not sterilised by other development. Plans should set out the factors that specific proposals will need to address, including:

  • disturbance, disruption and noise, blasting and vibration, and potential pollution of land, air and water;
  • impacts on local communities, individual houses, sensitive receptors and economic sectors important to the local economy;
  • benefits to the local and national economy;
  • cumulative impact with other mineral and landfill sites in the area;
  • effects on natural heritage, habitats and the historic environment;
  • landscape and visual impacts, including cumulative effects;
  • transport impacts; and
  • restoration and aftercare (including any benefits in terms of the remediation of existing areas of dereliction or instability).

Development management

244. Consent should only be granted for surface coal extraction proposals which are either environmentally acceptable (or can be made so by planning conditions) or provide local or community benefits which clearly outweigh the likely impacts of extraction. Site boundaries within 500 metres of the edge of settlements will only be environmentally acceptable where local circumstances, such as the removal of dereliction, small-scale prior extraction or the stabilisation of mining legacy, justify a lesser distance. Non-engineering works and mitigation measures within 500 metres may be acceptable.

247. The Scottish Government is currently exploring a range of options relating to the effective regulation of surface coal mining. This is likely to result in further guidance on effective restoration measures in due course. In the meantime, planning authorities should, through planning conditions and legal agreements, continue to ensure that a high standard of restoration and aftercare is managed effectively and that such work is undertaken at the earliest opportunity. A range of financial guarantee options is currently available and planning authorities should consider the most effective solution on a site-by-site basis. All solutions should provide assurance and clarity over the amount and period of the guarantee and in particular, where it is a bond, the risks covered (including operator failure) and the triggers for calling in a bond, including payment terms. In the aggregates sector, an operator may be able to demonstrate adequate provision under an industry-funded guarantee scheme.


Email: Graham Marchbank

Back to top