The article, published in January 2018, discusses what happens when the government’s growth aspiration collide with Britain’s coal mining legacy.
“According to estimates from The Coal Authority (TCA), coalfields cover 11% of Britain. Seven million properties are in coalfield areas, the body estimates, with 1.5 million of those properties sitting on shallow workings – the most susceptible to risk,” the article begins. It moves on to discuss the uneven distribution of these coalfield high-risk areas and the challenges posed to those residing in them. This includes large cracks opening up in the ground, potentially hazardous gas escapes and mine water finding its way into water bodies.
One of the problems when assessing the suitability of coalfield land for development, the piece says, is that previous mining activity was not recorded accurately or indeed at all. Furthermore, mine access might be limited owing to “crude” abandonment methods – “Mines may have collapsed, or the groundwater table may have risen,” Chris Chiverrell, an associate at construction industry research body CIRIA, told the report.
“Ultimately, it is the planning system that manages development in high-risk coal mining areas, with the oversight of TCA,” the article continues. “Any planning application for a development which intersects the ground in a designated development high-risk area must be supported by a desk-based risk assessment, according to the TCA.”
Here, Gary comments that “conditions attached to planning permissions ensure that coal mining legacy issues are dealt with. The costs are borne by the applicant”.
However, “there is ‘almost always’ a remedial scheme that can deal with coal mining legacy issues,” Gary continues. For example, at the former Orgreave colliery in South Yorkshire, which rose to national prominence during the 1984 miners’ strike as the scene of a famous stand-off between police and miners: “Homes are now being built on the 230-hectare former opencast site,” he says. “If you asked me 20 years ago, I’d have said there is no way you are building on it. There are big issues, but they can be addressed.”
RSK work site: The Logistics North development on the former Cutacre opencast mining site (during mining, and recently, showing development)
Subscribers can read the article in full on The ENDS Report website.