LAON PR 2013 – 25 25/4/13
SCOTTISH COAL’s COLLAPSE: A FAILURE OF THE SCOTTISH PLANNING SYSTEM?
It is understandable why all the discussion about the liquidation of Scottish Coal is over the loss of jobs of those working on Scottish Coal’s six working sites. This has come as a terrible shock to all those who are directly affected.
However, there is a much more important issue and that is whether the collapse of Scottish Coal also represents a catastrophic and systemic failure in the Scottish Planning System and the way it implements Planning Conditions once permission has been granted to work a site.
The failure of Scottish Coal is putting the restoration of many more sites at risk. It is not just the six working sites of Dalfield / Poweharnel, Mainshill, House of Warter / Burnston Remainder, Broken Cross, Dunstonhill and St Ninians which are caught up in this failure of the Scottish Planning System. These six 'working sites' are just the tip of a bigger iceberg. To this list should be added the Blair House in Fife, a site which was mothballed last year. It should also include the 11 other sites which either have not been restored, or have only partially been restored by Scottish Coal such as:
Glentaggart (Sth Lanarkshire)
Damside (Nth Lanarkshire)
and Chalmerston (East Ayreshire)
What is needed is a transparent public investigation into understanding what has gone wrong, before the Scottish Mining Restoration Trust is given any responsibility over restoring these sites.
These are some of the questions to which answers are needed, if Scotland’s Planning System is to avoid making similar mistakes in the future:
How many sites are there in total affected not just by Scottish Coal going into liquidation, but also by ATH Resources going into receivership last year?
Why were none of the Restoration Bonds called in?
What proportion of the cost of site restoration would be met if the Restoration Bonds were called in?
Why did Local Authorities grant new planning permissions without attaching the requirement that old sites be restored before the development of new sites could begin?
Scottish Coal was developing a Renewables Division. Had discussions with some Local Authorities about site restoration at the following sites: Broken Cross, Poniel, Westfield, Dalquahandy, House of Water and St Ninians being contingent on the Scottish Coal Company or any other subsidiary of the Scottish Resources Group gaining planning permission for a wind farm on the site?
These, the Loose Anti Opencast Network believe, are just some questions which need to be asked and answered. Anger about this state of affairs should not just be directed at the owners of Scottish Coal. Some of it needs to be directed at a Scottish Planning System, which we believe would have been found wanting, were there to be a thorough investigation into why so many sites have been left derelict and, as a consequence, people now find themselves without work.
Steve Leary for the Loose Anti Opencast Network said,
“ This whole episode does need a thorough investigation, if we are to learn how to avoid so many people being made redundant by this industry in the future. A investigation is also needed to restore trust in a tarnished planning system. Much has been said about the causes of Scottish Coal’s collapse, this being the result of a recent fall in coal prices and the rising cost of diesel fuel.
We in the Loose Anti Opencast Network, believe that if a more detailed inquiry was made into why this firm collapsed, it would find some of the reasons in the way the Scottish Planning System worked to enable this Company to gain new planning permissions without the requirement that it restored old sites. It ended up with a situation that the consequent pile of debt, symbolically represented by every new pile of overburden of earth and rock, which now dot the Scottish landscape, on sites which the Company could not afford to restore, proved in the end, to be too much. This collapse might have been sudden, but, we believe, the seeds of this collapse were sown a long time ago.“
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INFORMATION ABOUT LAON
The Loose Anti-Opencast Network (LAON) has been in existence since 2009. It functions as a medium through which to oppose open cast mine applications and works with groups where local people feel that such a development is inappropriate
Steve Leary, LAON’S Co-ordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can now follow LAON on twitter @ http://twitter.com/seftonchase
GROUPS IN THE LOOSE ANTI OPENCAST NETWORK:
Coal Action Network Whittonstall Action Group, Northumberland, North Pennine Protection Group, Northumberland, Pont Valley Network, Co Durham, Pittington Residents Group Co Durham, Newton Lane Action Group, Leeds, Residents Against Birklands, Gatshead Cowley Residents Group, Sheffield , Skelmansthorpe Action Group, Kirklees Shortwood Farm Opencast Opposition, Nottinghamshire, West Hallum Environment Group, Derbyshire, Smalley Action Group, Derbyshire, Hilltop Action Group, Derbyshire, , Minorca Opencast Protest Group, Leicestershire, Campaign Against Great Oak Opencast, Staffordshire, Stop Opencast at Sharlston, Wakefield and Alumwell Action Group. Walsall Just Say No to Lignite, N Ireland, Coal Action Scotland Saline Parish Hub, Fife Green Valleys Alliance, Rhymney Valley Merthyr Tydfil Anti Opencast Campaign, Merthyr Tydfil Llwdgoed Action, Merthyr Tydfil and Varteg Protest, Torfaen