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.


PROPOSED LOCAL AUTHORITY FLIER - printable as an A5 sized four pager - two columns per page.

[name and crest of local authority]


Why this guide has been produced

This guide provides information on recent work to ensure that the development of surface coal mines follows good practice. It follows a 2013 Scottish Government consultation - Opencast Coal Restoration: Effective Regulation [35] and work by the Scottish Opencast Coal Task Force.

What this guide is about

This council is responsible for the planning process but besides that, development of good practice covers areas in associated professions including:

  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Mining engineering
  • Legal services
  • Environmental and ecological services
  • Hydrology
  • Acoustics
  • Financial services

The guide is also about agreed and forthcoming changes to improve the planning process for surface coal mines. It will be kept up to date as new practices emerge.

Who this guide is for

Applicants are recommended to adopt the roadmap in this leaflet at appropriate points in the development management process.

Landowners should be aware of their responsibilities. Estates and land management is a specialised and intensive business; the relationship with surface mine operators is crucial to the long-term success of the surface mine and the productivity of the land post-extraction. With royalties comes responsibility and that will be evident in any legal agreement. It applies to the landowner as well as to the operator and successors in title.

Communities in coalfield areas may benefit from:

  • economic activity and jobs
  • restoration of long-term dereliction
  • improved countryside access

Disbenefits may include:

  • lorry traffic
  • dust
  • blasting
  • noise

These factors are already addressed in this council's local development plan or supplementary guidance and in Scottish Planning Policy and advice.

Where this guide applies

To [name of authority] only.

Similar guides are available from other local authorities with coal resources in order to provide consistent "national standards".

Good Practice: Areas of focus

planning process for surface coal mines

The Task Force has identified new processes (coloured amber) and amended processes (coloured green that can enhance the progress of an application for a surface coal mine.

EIA scoping improvements

EIA scoping allows all relevant matters to be "scoped-in" rather than missed until later which can lead to the need for addenda, increased costs and delayed decisions.

The Scottish Government, SEPA and SNH are working to improve the information required in Environmental Statements for surface coal mines focused on maps, the development's infrastructure, sensitivities and significant environmental impacts.


Gatechecking is simply pre-planning quality assurance about the process.

This council will now require applicants for surface coal extraction to engage in a pre-application discussion in order to ensure that once the application is submitted it is associated with all the necessary information in order to improve quality. There is no fee.

Processing agreements

[ describe ]

Where the applicant enters into a processing agreement, the planning authority will publish it on-line.

Legal agreements

Agreements under section 69 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 or section 75 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 are often needed to deal with matters that cannot be prescribed by a planning condition. Until a legal agreement is signed a permission cannot be implemented. Legal agreements will be signed in a timely manner in accordance with Planning Performance Framework [link].

Agreements under section 96 of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984….

Legal agreements may cover a range of matters, importantly; the nature of the financial guarantee that will be required from the operator to ensure that restoration and where necessary aftercare is secured.

Financial guarantees

The Task Force has adopted a report paving a way towards new methods of financial assurance on site restoration. A range of options is available; secure and adequate funding is absolutely fundamental to adequate site completion. This council [ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx ]

Scottish Government, working with the Scottish Futures Trust and [ xxxxxxx] has developed………………..

Mine Progress Plans

These plans are prepared for submission with the planning application and act as guides to a surface mine during its inception, extraction, progressive restoration and aftercare programme. A mine progress plan will be flexible enough to accommodate changes in ground conditions, the weather or other circumstances. "Material" change to the plan may require a fresh planning application and if so, monitoring and compliance procedures can be altered to ensure that breaches of planning permission are avoided.

Site monitoring

This is the responsibility of [name of council] as planning authority but it may be conducted with the assistance of a shared or bought-in service e.g. through consultancy where specialist skills not available to the council in-house are required. It will normally be funded by the operator but be conducted independently.

Inspection Reports

These will be made available periodically, on time and on-line.

What you can expect from this good practice

Where surface-mined coal can be worked satisfactorily this good practice will be expected to apply.

Benefits of the good practice guidance include:

Applicants: can expect to be provided with more certainty about the information required and the service they will receive

Planning authorities: will target effort and resources more efficiently and effectively

Landowners: heightened awareness of land management responsibilities and environmental stewardship

Elected members: will be better sighted on the financial provision associated with restoration

Agencies and statutory consultees: will be party to processing agreements where there are particular sensitivities. Their service level agreements will be adjusted to reflect expectations on surface coal mine development proposals

The Scottish Government: is drafting a further consultation on the range of improvements to effective regulation that the Task Force supports. It is planned to consult during 2015. This may include Regulations to introduce a focused and limited mine monitoring fees regime. It is expected that if they are introduced this council will be able to apply them flexibly depending on the nature of the application and site conditions.

The Scottish Government will update planning advice to reflect good practice when the Task Force's work streams are concluded

Communities: located in coalfield areas should expect improved levels of transparency in matters relating to applications with open access to associated documentation that is in the public domain. Community liaison committees and technical working groups run by the council can be expected.

Communities and individuals should be confident that the good practice this leaflet describes is to serve their best interests in the context of land use planning policy, planning decisions and the energy sector more widely.

During 2015, further work will be done on community engagement arising from some of the relevant workstreams of the report to the Task Force. Communities will be involved in that work.

Sources of help

British Geological Survey
The Coal Authority
Coal Pro
Scottish Futures Trust
Scottish Land and Estates
Scottish Government


Most of this good practice is about doing things that are done well better: for a purpose.

For as long as coal provides an important part of this country's energy mix, indigenous reserves where they can be worked will remain a competitive alternative to imported coal, for the electricity, domestic, cement and other markets.

Status of development plans

Section 25 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 requires that the determination of planning applications shall, be made in accordance with the plan unless other material considerations indicate otherwise.

The development plans of this authority relevant to surface coal mining can be found at

[local authority hyperlink]


The planning authority's enforcement charter can be found at

[insert hyperlink]


Email: Graham Marchbank

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