23. We will take action based on the outcome from our consultation on Opencast Coal Restoration: Effective Regulation

Implementation Lead(s): Scottish Government

Locations: All Scotland

Further reading:
Scottish Government consultation on ‘Opencast Coal Restoration and Effective Regulation  (consultation period ended)

Environmental Mitigation: None required.

Ongoing Activity and Milestones:
2014 – Scottish Opencast Coal Task Force Compliance Monitoring Sub-Group work programme underway.

2014 – July – Scottish Opencast Coal Task Force Finance Sub-Group first meeting.

2014 – August – Publish analysis of responses to the ‘Opencast Coal Restoration: Effective Regulation’ consultation and Main Findings of the Consultation on Opencast Restoration: Effective Regulation published August 4, 2014.

2014 – November  – Scottish Opencast Coal Task Force Compliance Monitoring Sub-Group and Finance Sub-Group work programmes completed.

2014 – December – The two sub groups have been reviewing the outcome of our public consultation on opencast coal restoration: effective regulation. The sub groups are represented by the affected Councils, SEPA, SNH, COSLA, trades unions, communities, coal operators, Scottish Government and visiting professionals from associate disciplines such as the banking and engineering sectors. The subgroups will consider a report on enhanced approach to compliance and will report it to the Task Force which meets on December 16, 2014.

2015 – June – A final report from the sub-groups making recommendations on changes in planning procedures focussing on enhanced flows of information and opportunities for oversight now has the support of most planning authorities and is expected to be signed off by the next task force in October 2015 with a view to publication.

2015 – August – Consultations on monitoring fees and on notification of applications are being drafted. Work with SNH and SEPA on better scoping for EIA related to surface coal mines is due to report to the EIA Forum in November.  Heads Of Planning Scotland has now published its position statement on the operation of financial mechanisms to secure decommissioning restoration and aftercare of development sites.  Appendix 2 provides a section 75 agreement template.  Good progress has been made with HOPS and the Improvement Service on training, skills and the formation of a community of interest on coal and minerals – with analysis of preferred models due to report to the December board.  Guidance on key principles in relation to bank guarantees for restoration in preparation.

2015 – November – The final report of the Task Force Compliance and Finance sub-groups – ‘Surface Coal Mine Restoration – Towards better Regulation‘ –  was published and provides a platform for further initiatives and consultation on its recommendations by lead partners. The Scottish Government are working with SEPA, SNH, Historic Environment Scotland and HoPS (Heads of Planning Scotland) to improve information requirements at the EIA scoping stage. Advice was disseminated at the November 2015 Scottish Government EIA forum.

2015 – December – A training programme on minerals and coal for planners has been developed through HoPS and the Improvement Service (IS) and a steering group has been set up with members from local authorities, HoPS, SEPA, SNH and SOLAR (Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators in Scotland). The training programme will cover two days and include site visits. A Coal Restoration Working Group has been established to monitor and progress surface coal mine site restoration in Scotland. The Group will have its first meeting in Glasgow in February 2016. Preparation is underway for a consultation on charging for mine monitoring.

Work of the Scottish Opencast Coal Task Force and subsequent progress on implementing its recommendations have been published.

2016 – January – Good progress made on preparing a consultation on charging mine monitoring fees.

2016 – February – First meeting of new Coal Restoration Working Group with a remit to monitor and progress surface coal mine site restoration in Scotland. Heads of Planning Scotland Coal and Minerals Steering Group agreed to set up the Scottish Coal and Minerals Forum to address the needs and requirements of joint working between planning authorities delivering coal and minerals planning services. This approach was preferred for its simple, flexible and inexpensive approach allowing a non-defined membership

2016 – May  – First Meeting of Scottish Coal and Minerals Forum

2016 – July – First training event and seminar organised by  the new Scottish Coal and Minerals Forum will be held in Glasgow in October 2016. This event will cover bonds and financial mechanisms – why bonds are necessary, calculation of quantum  required, structuring of legal documents, monitoring sites, the process of calling bonds and a case study examining the legal perspectives and operational delivery of restoration at a particular site

2016 – August – Two unrestored surface coal mines, Spireslack  in East Ayrshire and Mainshill Wood in South Lanarkshire, provide unique opportunities for alternative restoration as permanent geological conservation, education and strategic national research facilities. These sites are now referred to as the Scottish Carboniferous Research Park (SCARP).

2016 October –  The Scottish Minerals Planning Group (new name for Scottish Coal and Minerals Forum) held a well-attended and received Finance & Monitoring training event in Glasgow on 21 October.  The training covered all aspects of financial guarantees for surface coal mines (restoration bonds). It is expected future training events could also be relevant to other sectors e.g. onshore renewables and aggregates quarries. The final meeting of the Coal Restoration Working Group took place on 27 October. Quarterly reports on surface coal mine restoration and site inspection are now available on the Coal Restoration Working Group webpage.

2017 January –  Consultation on Mine Monitoring fees launched. The Scottish Government is seeking views on the proposal to enable planning authorities to charge operators for undertaking monitoring of surface coal mining permissions, including planning conditions; legal agreements and restoration financial guarantees.

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