Growth and Infrastructure Bill




This Supplementary Memorandum has been written in response to the publication of the Consultation Document on Clause 21 that was issued on November 26th 2011 entitled ‘Nationally significant infrastructure planning: extending the regime to business and commercial projects’ on 26/11/12. This additional submission should be read in conjunction with our previous submission GIB 32.

The proposal to have a threshold of 100 hectares is astonishing. As we demonstrate below, at a stroke, one third of all known current and potential decisions over new opencast sites could be taken out of Local Government control. We are even more determined to try and get any definition of quarrying and mining, legislated for under the proposals of this Bill, to exclude the surface mining of coal as part of that definition.


This paper outlines what the effect might be on current potential and actual applications for new opencast sites in England if Clause 21 was implemented

It discusses further the new barriers to effective public participation in the decision making process created by this proposal

Evidence is provided on what the decision making process would lose if this policy proposal is adopted.

Suggest that the Decision making process for Mineral Planning applications can be speeded –up by other means

Draws Members attention to the Financial Crisis currently affecting all sections of the UK Coal Industry and what the consequences might be for the state of the English Countryside if this measure is past.


There are currently at least 11 potential or actual opencast mine applications in England at present (1/12/12). These fall into two groups in the planning process. There are those proposals that are at the Scoping stage, where a potential applicant has asked formally for an opinion on what should be included in a planning application. The second group is where a formal application has been made but no decision has yet been made.


There are three potential applications at this stage of the process, two of which could fall under the new regime if it is implemented, Deanfield and Marley Hill Colliery Reclamation.

DEANFIELD (West of New Sharleston, Wakefield) (Wakefield MDC) (Scoping Inquiry) (UK Coal) (1.180,000 tonnes) (138 hectares)

HILLTOP PROJECT (nr. Clay Cross, Derbyshire) (Derbyshire County Council) (Scoping Inquiry) (Provectus Remediation) (130,000) (30 hectares)

MARLEY HILL COLLIERY RECLAMATION (Sunnyside, Gateshead (Co Durham also affected), (Scoping Enquiry) (UK Coal) (c1.0m) (118 hectares)


There are eight applications which are current. Two of them, Hoodsclose and Shortwood Farm are over 100 hectares and could be considered National Infrastructure Projects under these proposals.

BIRKLANDS LANE, (nr .Marley Hill, Gateshead MDC), (Gateshead: Reference No DC/11/00687/MIN) (Application) (Hall Construction Services) (275,000) (34.8 hectares)

BRADLEY (nr. Consett) (Co Durham) (Judicial Review) (UK Coal) (500,000) (68 hectares)

DEARNE LEA, WEST CLAYTON (S.E. of Huddersfield) (Kirklees Council: Reference No. 2012/62/9113/ED) (Application) (George Harrison Ltd) (190,000) (18.8 hectares)

FERNEYBEDS, WIDDRINGTON STATION (8 miles NW of Ashington) (Northumberland County Council ) ( Application) (Banks Group) (750,000) (95.6 hectares)

GEORGE FARM (nr. Smalley, Derbyshire) (Derbyshire County Council: Ref No. CM6/1110/112) (Application) (LEM Resources) (400,000) (35.2 hectares)

HALTON LEA GATE (c 5 miles SW of Haltwhistle) (Northumberland County Council) (Judicial Inquiry) (HM Developments) (140,000) (75 acres)

HOODSCLOSE Whittonstall (Northumberland County Council) (Application) (UK Coal) (2,200,000) (208 hectares)

SHORTWOOD FARM (Trowell, nr Nottingham, Nottinghamshire) (Application) (UK Coal) (1,275,000) (130 hectares)

Therefore under these proposals, nearly a third of current or potential opencast coal applications in England could come under the new regime.

We consider that the prospect that Planning Inspector, who, unlike local people and locally elected representatives, will not know the site, will not be affected by the decision and will not know local people, can be appointed effectively by the Applicant, via the good offices of the Secretary of State, will be seen as having been imposed on the local community. The danger is that they will be taken to be Agents of the State, come to make a decision which is already a foregone conclusion.

This permanent loss of our right to be heard by our locally elected representatives for a third of all actual or potential applications, because the site size is over 100 hectares, does not make sense. The larger the site, the more sensitive is the issue of the impact that the site will have on the local communities and the more people it will affect.


We accept that unfortunately, mineral planning was excluded from the Localism Bill. Now we have a proposal which seems to be designed to provide even more barriers between those who think that working minerals where they are found is a necessity which overrides all over considerations and those who do not. Especially local people most affected by such a large development.

Currently most groups opposing opencast mine applications mount what is usually a relatively cheap, low-level in terms of action, campaign in response to a Scoping Inquiry. The Local Government process allows such groups to form, undertake research and develop objections with varying degrees of success.

Now it seems, to have any chance of being heard, this process of learning the complexities of the mineral planning system will have to be telescoped into a much shorter time period to fit a time table agreed, without their participation, as part of a pre planning agreement.

At present, if a local group objects to an application and the local authority rejects the application and it goes to Appeal, the local group objecting to the proposal not only has the right to submit written evidence, they can also gain the right to cross examine witnesses. Will such a right be lost under what is proposed under Clause 21? If that right is lost, then this is more of a threat to silence the voice of local people than previously perceived.

If that right is still to exist, then local groups face two other threats if they are to be successful at being heard. Normally, at such events those acting for the Applicant try to drown opponents with reams of paper, produced at short notice and requiring an almost instant response. This is the first threat.

To stop objectors, many of whom are lay persons, from being either exhausted or drowned by paper during the intense few days that such Public Inquiries sit, the best option is to employ your own legal team. Now objectors face the other threat, that they will not have the time or the money to raise the thousands of pounds needed to gain an effective voice. The imposition of the Public Inquiry method will increase the perception that those with the deepest pockets win despite the quality of the counter arguments.


Our previous evidence to the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government argued that creating such barriers and excluding local people, who know the area better than anyone else, will lower the quality of decision-making. We argued

"......... but as far as the complex process of dealing with mineral planning applications is concerned, objectors play a vital role in improving the quality of successful applications as well as defeating poor applications. The level of scrutiny given by opponents to sizeable 1,500 page long submissions, often points out legitimate causes for concern based on local knowledge, which if not addressed, would mean approving applications which would have a detrimental environmental impact. The issue here may be more to do with the poor quality of the initial submission rather than the ‘bureaucratic delays’ often cited as the cause. " [1]


There are other ways by which the decision making process can be speeded up for mineral planning applications without the need to resort to the method proposed by Clause 21 for large quarrying and mining sites. In the same Memorandum quoted from before, we wrote the following

"Mineral planning applications suffer from two other sources of delay. Firstly the length of time it takes for statutory consultees to respond to consultation requests. Secondly the length of time it takes applicants to consider valid objections and resubmit revised applications. If the Government wants to speed up the planning decision making process for mineral planning applications, it should not give the applicant unlimited amounts of time to respond to valid objections. The onus should be on the applicant submitting an application of sufficient quality in the first instance and not using the system to allow valid objections to become means by which the quality of the application can be improved" [2]

We humbly suggest that before such drastic steps are made to reduce public participation in decisions for large new quarries and mines, that evidence to either prove or disprove the above statement is sought. Only then can we find out how many large scale mineral planning applications are of a sufficient initial quality to gain approval with only minor amendments within a reasonable timescale on the one hand, and on the other, how often such large scale applications need major revisions and how long it takes applicants to submit the revised documentation that leads to a decision being made.

Lastly, on this point, if it is proposed to ensure that large scale applications are determined within one year of their initial proposal, it is hoped that this will equally apply to the applicant as it does to the objector and would be the best means of improving the quality of the initial application.


The recent news from Scotland, that a Coal Operator has closed down an opencast site and mothballed it indefinitely, draws attention to the PRESENT state of the UK Coal Industry.[3] It is not in the best of financial health. This is a much shrunken industry, producing around 18m tonnes of coal a year. Last year 59% of that coal was produced by opencast methods.[4] This year, as the deep mining sector continues to suffer from problems and cost pressures are closing mines (on a temporary basis) at Maltby and Aperpergwm, [5] there is news that Daw Mill, our largest pit, is almost certain to close in 2014.[6] As a consequence, domestic coal production is becoming ever more reliant on surface mining – in the July to September quarter, of the 4m tonnes of coal the UK produced, 65% now came from surface mines. [7]

But even the surface mine sector of the coal industry is not immune to the chill winds of economic realism coming from across the Atlantic, as US coal producers, desperate to find a market for their coal now that it can no longer compete with gas in the US domestic market because of the ‘fracking revolution’, send shiploads of coal to Europe at prices that make some UK coal operations uncompetitive. [8] As a consequence, ATH Resources, a major surface mine operator has put itself up for sale and stopped development work on its new sites and Scottish Coal has asked its workforce to take a 10% pay cut [9] and mothballed its large Blair House opencast site.

Given this economic background, offering the new Major Infrastructure route may not be the wisest thing to do if it encourages developers with insufficient capital to gain new approvals, who then mothball sites as the price of coal fails to recover. If the operator goes into administration, then the Committee should also bear in mind that Restoration Bonds for such sites are now only required in ‘exceptional circumstances’ under the guidance contained in the new National Planning Policy Framework .[10]

The danger is that as the policies at the heart of the Energy Bill squeezes the use of coal out of our generating system, the legacy will be the site of numerous abandoned or mothballed opencast mines which will just be left derelict.

Lastly a new group should be added to the list of groups LAON represents that was previously circulated as Appendix I. The Stop Opencast in Sharlston group, who will be opposing any planning proposal to mine at the Deanfield site have now joined LAON.


Now that clarification has been given that all quarrying and mining sites over 100 hectares could be considered to be Major Infrastructure Projects, we are even more convinced, for the original reasons stated in GIB32 and the additional reasons stated here, to request that the surface mining of coal be excluded from any regulation about mining or quarrying that is made, under Clause 21of this Bill, should it become an Act.

December 2012


1) Planning and Housing: A Memorandum From The Loose Anti Opencast Network to The Communities And Local Government Committee, on Evidence to put to The New Ministers Of Housing And Planning, PHM40, para 5.1 (Parliamentary Publications,17/10/12) @

2) Op cit, para 6.1

3) ‘Mothballed mine sparks concern among villagers’ (Dunfirmline Press, 20/11/12)

4) Figures derived from Annual Tables: Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2.7 @

5) Aberpergwm Mine, Glynneth: Walter Energy plans shutdown’ (BBC News South Wales, 19/10/12)


‘Hargreaves to mothball Maltby 1mil mt/year Maltby thermal coking coal mine’ Platts 7/11/12)

6) UK Coal confirm Daw Mill on course for closure’ (The Business Desk, 10/8/12) @

7) These figures are based on The Coal Authority: Coal Mining Production and Manpower Return Statistics: Current Statistics (Quarterly) : 2012 July – September 2012 @

8) ‘U.S. Coal Exports To Europe At Record Highs’ (Seeking Alpha, 7/10/12) @

9) Fears for jobs as ATH Resources to be sold’ (Scottish Herald, 16/10/12) This story also includes information about Scottish Coal where the workers are being asked to take a 10% pay cut to prevent job losses and between 20 to 100 workers may still be made redundant. See

10) National Planning Policy Framework: technical guidance, para 50 @

‘Nationally significant infrastructure planning: extending the regime to business and commercial projects’ DCLG 26/11/12 @

Prepared 10th December 2012