point needs to be made about how long it will take UK Coal plc to realise the development potential of its 43,500 acre land bank. Reference has already been made to how long it has taken UK Coal plc to plan for the Minorca site – 3 years initial consideration, plus at least 2 years to go through the mineral planning process. It will take a further 5 years to work the site, if they get permission. If the company do plan to seek to make this a site where they seek a permanent change in the use of the land to enable further development for housing or employment, then they will not approach the local planning authorities to do so until coaling has commenced. Applying to make permanent use of the site for development and get changes in the restoration conditions is not likely to occur until years 5 and 10 of this longer term process to develop the site.. In Minorca’s case, if UK Coal aspire to permanently change the use of part or all of the site, any associated building work could not start until 2015 at the earliest, assuming no further delays in the planning process for either extracting the coal and getting a change in conditions that allows a permanent change of use. The Minorca site covers 321 acres which is not a very large part of UK Coal’s estate. But its size and the likely size of other future opencast mines that might be ‘ripe for development’ the point, since it will therefore take many years for UK Coal plc to realise the full potential of its land bank if can only develop small amounts of it at any one time. It will take many years to process relatively small parcels of land through two distinct planning processes and extract the underlying coal that makes developing the land possible.
The issues associated with UK Coal plc being a company historically associated with coal extraction and the control of coal extraction being exercised by a planning regime different from other land use planning is glossed over by UK Coal plc when it presents itself as a property company in the following ways:
If the unexploited land it owns overlies a shallow coalfield it will be prevented from developing the land until the coal has been extracted.
Gaining permission to extract coal is a long complex and expensive process.
Such planning permission that is granted only gives UK Coal plc temporary permission to exploit the land for mineral extraction purposes on condition that the land is restored to the situation agreed on when the planning permission was granted.
Officially, land which is approved for such mineral extraction purposes is never classified as brown field land, as UK Coal plc is only ‘borrowing’ the land on a temporary basis and is under an obligation to restore the site.
UK COAL plc: AN ALTERNATIVE REPORTPAGE 17