It will take some considerable time for UK Coal plc to realise the value of its land bank since sites are small relative to the size of the land bank and each site can take over 10 years before it is in a position to begin its final development process.
From reading UK Coal’s own literature on how it wants to progress with its Project Worth initiative, the company seems to ignore these impediments to its plans. They do not seem to exist. Furthermore, it fails to acknowledge that when it seeks to change the temporary use of land (and thereby not carry out the obligations entered into initially), and seeks to gain a permanent use of the land for another more profitable purpose, it is likely to engender community conflict. This can happen, as the case studies which follow make clear.
For UK Coal plc the development of the Project Worth initiative has had major effects. Firstly that in the future increasing the number of successful opencast mining applications becomes increasingly important if the company is to release land for later long term development. Secondly, UK Coal plc in seeking to reinvent itself as a property company needed to impress investment analysts with its change of direction.
To achieve the first objective the company was willing to work with other Coal Operators through Coal Pro, the industry’s trade body and the Coal Forum 6 to lobby successfully for discrete changes in the issues that had to be taken into account when assessing the merit of planning applications, resulting in a string of successful new opencast mining applications from 2006 onwards. MOPG’s first report “Coal, Collusion and Communities” traced how new issues such as the need to sustain a viable coal industry were being written into matters to be taken into account when determining new opencast planning applications especially if they went to a Public Inquiry. Steve Leary, the author, in concluding that report, argued that
“Secondly, urgent attention should be given to considering how to combat and contest the “need for coal” arguments that have been so successfully utilised in recent opencast coal mining applications and which form part of UK Coal’s arguments supporting their Minorca application in any further submission MOPG makes to Leicestershire County Council.” 7
MOPG’s second set of objections to UK Coal’s Minorca application in its Second Submission document sought to both challenge ‘Need for Coal’ arguments, the immediate saleability of the Minorca Coal and the strategic need for a viable English coal industry, inherent in UK Coal’s Minorca application. Based on the previous research in “Coal, Collusion and Communities” two themes linked the new submission document; that Energy Policies and Planning Policies governing the treatment of opencast
UK COAL plc: AN ALTERNATIVE REPORTPAGE 18