The Scottish Government Response
9. Although only a limited number of responses to the consultation were received, overall respondents were supportive of the introduction of these new Regulations and the comments received can help the Scottish Government to shape the final Regulations. The responses to the main points in the consultation are set out below under each heading.
Terminology to be used within new Regulations if supported
10. The majority of those who responded supported the definitions outlined within the Regulations and the supporting guidance. There were however a few responders who outlined at this point that the monitoring fee should be extended to mineral extraction sites too.
- Scottish Government response: Agreeing terminology was an important step in the preparation of the Regulations. In terms of extending the fee to the mineral sites, following a separate consultation, a new revised maximum planning application fee of £125k came into force on 1 June 2017. The Scottish Government aims to consult on further changes to the fees system after the Planning Bill has been considered by Parliament, to ensure we have a clear idea of the resource implications arising from the finalised changes to the planning system. There is therefore no proposal to extend the monitoring fee to mineral extraction sites at this time.
Allow planning authorities to start charging for monitoring visits
11. Respondents were supportive of the principles behind the proposal of introducing a fee for monitoring opencast coal sites.
- Scottish Government response: The support for the proposal is welcomed and we can now aim to introduce the new Regulations to Parliament in Autumn 2017. The ability of planning authorities to recover some of the costs associated with monitoring of these sites should provide some certainty in the future around availability of resources involved in monitoring.
Fee of £500 for each monitoring visit to an active site and £250 for an inactive site
12. Five out of nine of those who responded to this question agreed with the proposed fee level. However, those who disagreed thought that this fee level would not cover the costs associated with specialised input or reports or that the costs of inspecting an inactive site could be comparable to those of an active site.
- Scottish Government response: The support for the proposed fees structure is welcomed. The aim of these new Regulations is to allow planning authorities to start to recover some of the costs associated with monitoring surface coal sites. The proposed fees levels in the consultation paper are similar to those set in England and Wales, where the fee is £331 for active sites and £109 for inactive sites - albeit their fees apply across the whole of the extractive sector.
Allow planning authorities some level of flexibility when gauging the number of site visits required each year
13. Six out of eleven respondents disagreed with this element of the proposal. When looking at individual responses the principle of allowing planning authorities to flexibly gauge how many site visits were required, was agreed. There was however concern about being able to define what is an active or inactive site or that an inactive site may require just as much careful monitoring as an active site. Especially if only recently inactive, with future restoration requirements.
- Scottish Government response: As it's evident some respondents had concerns about flexibility, this element of the Regulations has been altered. The amendment will permit planning authorities to gauge, based on their experience, what level of monitoring is required on a case by case basis, whether the site is active or inactive. The number of visits in any 12 month period, which a planning authority can charge for, will range from 1 to 8 as per the proposal, but will cover both active and inactive sites. The expectation would be that the majority of inactive sites would only require a single visit in a 12 month period, a point that will be reflected in guidance, but that additional chargeable visits could be undertaken, if a planning authority believes they are merited.
Operator should be responsible for paying the monitoring fee
14. This was widely agreed through the consultation responses with minimum comment.
- Scottish Government response: Support for this approach was noted.
Monitoring reports being issued within 10 days of the date of the site visit
15. This was an area where planning authorities raised some concern, especially about the lack of flexibility for what could be mitigating factors, such as requesting additional information or further work or research being required or undertaken.
- Scottish Government response: This element of the Regulations has been amended to accommodate extensions to the 10 day time period, where required, providing greater flexibility whilst aiming to maintain the overall objective of the Regulations to ensure site inspection reports are undertaken timeously.
Email: William Carlin
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House