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 is granted,
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,
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.
Future opencast site applications by UK Coal plc, including the Minorca site may be driven by the strategic location of the site, not just for the value of the minerals it contains but also by its potential longer term vale as a site ‘ripe’ for property development
In future, groups opposing UK Coal’s plc’s plans for new opencast mines will have to explore the possibility of ensuring that the local mineral authority insists on a bond which would be forfeited if UK Coal plc sought to change the determination of the land before restoration of the site according to the original planning conditions had been completed. Alternatively, such groups may seek a condition which would block any attempt to change the determination of the land for a fixed period after the land had been restored.
The strategy apparently being pursued by UK Coal plc is likely to create more conflicts with local communities and mineral planning authorities in areas where it operates in the future.
It seems reasonable to conclude that the conditions that UK Coal plc agree to in order to gain permission to work land for mineral purposes may only be considered by the company as a ‘temporary’ impediment. The real intention to change the designation of the land for planning purposes may be revealed later.
UK COAL plc: AN ALTERNATIVE REPORTPAGE 5