PAN 64: Reclamation of Surface Mineral Workings
RECLAMATION TO AMENITY USES
See Biodiversity and Opencast Coal Mining: A Good Practice Guide, RSPB & SNH (2000)
76. The reclamation of surface mineral workings can often provide substantial opportunity to improve landscapes and habitats, expose earth science interest and enhance access and recreation provisions for local communities. Increasingly surface mineral workings are being reclaimed to afteruses that fall into the broad category of amenity. These involve the creation of:
- formal and informal recreational areas;
- geological exposures;
- reed beds;
- open water; and
General planning conditions can require the construction of paths for recreation and access ( see paragraph 95).
77. Amenity afteruses are often offered by operators as community benefit to increase the chances of an application gaining acceptance by the local community or where a return to the pre-extraction use of the land is not viable, such as with some hard rock quarries ( see Annex A). Reclamation to natural heritage afteruses may be particularly appropriate where there are important habitats adjacent to the site, where soil or hydrological conditions suit a particular habitat type or where there are rock or landforms of particular interest. Natural heritage afteruses can be cost-effective and contribute towards achieving biodiversity targets.
78. It is not possible to recreate every habitat which could be adversely affected by mineral development. However, the reclamation of surface mineral workings provides a great opportunity to enhance natural heritage interests by extending, linking together or creating new habitats.
CONSULTATION ON AMENITY RECLAMATION
79. It is recommended that SNH be consulted on applications for the reclamation of surface mineral workings. Consideration may also be given to consulting other consultees such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) or the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT). Advice can also be obtained from SEPA. Advice on local needs and informal land and water-based sport and recreation may be obtained from SportScotland and SNH. CSCT can advise on proposals within the Central Scotland Forest area.
80. It is recommended that consultees are involved in initial consultation on afteruses rather than being consulted once afteruses have been chosen. The EIA process provides an opportunity for early consultation, and will identify existing natural heritage interest and assess the suitability of the site for habitat creation.
81. Many amenity afteruses have precise topographical requirements, such as site area and gradients. Many habitat types require low fertility soils, or the establishment of waterlogged conditions, to encourage the growth of the desired vegetation. The soil profile characteristics are important in determining the success of nature conservation after reclamation. The required soil profile will vary depending on the type of habitat. The correct soil fertility is required since soils that are too fertile will reduce the species diversity because more vigorous grass species will dominate and prevent species that do not respond rapidly to soil nutrients from establishing successfully.
See PAN 60: Planning for Natural Heritage, page 35, case study 19.
82. Features of earth science interest, such as rocks or fossils, may be revealed during mineral extraction. Valuable earth science features can be retained in the form of rock exposures or sections. If evidence suggests there may be some earth science interest then a watching brief can be required during working. The permanent preservation of exposures and sections is generally unacceptable where this would sterilise large amounts of a mineral reserves (unless within a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)). There may be opportunities to locate exposures and sections near the limits of the working area to reduce sterilising mineral reserves. Where permanent exposure is proposed it is important to consider how earth science interest can be integrated with other afteruses and issues such as access, maintenance and the responsibility for ensuring safety of exposed faces. Local RIGS (Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites) Groups or SNH may be able to provide advice on the creation of permanent exposures.
83. The statutory 5 year aftercare period is generally considered appropriate for more formal amenity afteruses such as playing fields. However, sites reclaimed to natural heritage afteruses tend to require a longer period of aftercare to allow habitats to establish. This can be controlled by a planning agreement or by other voluntary arrangements between mineral operators, planning authorities, landowners and other relevant organisations.
84. Some nature conservation sites may require regular flooding to maintain certain habitats, whereas drainage and pumping may be required for other uses such as playing fields to prevent flooding in winter. Maintenance of water levels can be achieved through a planning agreement.
85. There are various methods of vegetation establishment that can be used on sites being reclaimed to amenity afteruses including seeding, natural colonisation and turf transplants. The process of natural colonisation can take years and is generally not suited to visually sensitive areas. If a formal sports afteruse, such as playing fields, is proposed planning conditions can allow for aftercare to establish and sustain an appropriate grass sward. Weed control may be important to prevent dominance of a limited number of aggressive species. Weed control will also need to ensure that no harm is done to vegetation of interest.
86. Mineral operators may pass the responsibility for management of reclaimed sites to other organisations such as the RSPB, SWT, CSCT or the local authority.
WATER AREAS AND WATERCOURSES
See Reducing the Effects of Surface Mineral Workings on the Water Environment, Symonds Travers Morgan (1998).
87. Water areas and watercourses can be created as part of the proposed afteruse. These can enhance the landscape, provide recreational opportunities and create habitats for wildlife. Rivers and burns can be affected by opencast operations and may be diverted to allow extraction. Where watercourses have been degraded as a result of past mining or industrial activity their ecological value can often be enhanced through reclamation. Water areas can often cater for water recreational uses and natural heritage interests.
See SEPA documents Watercourses in the Community and Pond, Pools and Lochans. www.sepa.org.uk/guidance/hei
88. Where a mineral operator proposes to create a water area or watercourse it is best practice to submit information on:
- depths and areas of water to be created;
- safety features, especially if there is public access or its near to a populated area;
- the stability of steep slopes;
- hydrology and water quality;
- the provision of features such as islands, shallows and gently sloping shores which can greatly enhance the potential for habitat creation;
- treatment and planting of water and land margins;
- subsequent management of the area; and
- the risk of birdstrike to aircraft when the water area is located near to an airfield.
89. SNH and the RSPB will be able to provide advice on the creation of natural heritage interest in and around water areas. It is recommended that SEPA be consulted when preparing any restoration or aftercare scheme where it is intended to establish a water area or create or divert a watercourse. SportScotland and SNH can provide advice on water based recreation.
Guidance on the interaction between planning and waste controls is contained in NPPG 10: Planning and Waste Management. Further advice is given in PAN 63: Waste Management Planning.
90. Voids created by surface mineral workings have in the past been used for landfill. Demand for landfilling of these voids is expected to diminish in the future as waste treatment and minimisation increases. However, where the reclamation of a surface mineral working includes landfilling, it is vital that the requirements are integrated with the requirements and objectives for reclamation. A separate planning permission is likely to be required for landfilling.
91. Any proposal for mineral working which includes infilling the mineral void with controlled wastes currently requires either a waste management licence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, as amended, or a permit under the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2000, as well as planning permission.
92. Where the deposit of controlled waste has been carried out, reclamation to forestry is only desirable if the integrity of the landfill design (particularly the impermeable capping and any gas control system) will not be compromised, for example by supply of adequate thickness of soil over the landfill cap (a minimum of 1.5 metres is recommended) and selection of appropriate tree species.
See Schedule 3, Part 1, Paragraph (2) of the 1997 Act.
93. Planning authorities are given powers under the 1997 Act to impose two forms of restoration and aftercare conditions on agriculture, forestry and amenity permissions:
- conditions imposed at the time of granting planning permission, specifying the steps to be taken; or
- conditions which allow a restoration and aftercare scheme to be submitted at a later date for approval by the planning authority.
94. If any restoration is likely to take place within 12 months of the commencement of working, then it is recommended that full details of the proposed restoration and aftercare be submitted, and a detailed set of conditions imposed with the planning permission. Where restoration will not take place for several years, it may be appropriate for some details to be submitted at a later date in restoration and aftercare schemes. However, the general principles of the proposed reclamation and afteruse, including detailed schemes for stripping and storage of soil materials, should be agree from the outset as part of the planning application. This needs to be sufficient to demonstrate that the overall reclamation objectives are practically achievable. More advice on restoration and aftercare schemes is provided in paragraphs 101 to 109.
95. There are limitations on aftercare conditions:
- Aftercare conditions may only be imposed where the land is also subject to a restoration condition.
- Aftercare conditions only apply where land is being reclaimed for use for agriculture, forestry or amenity.
- Aftercare conditions can require only the treating of the land - such as planting, cultivating, fertilising, watering, draining or other steps for treating the land - aftercare conditions cannot require the erection, construction or maintenance of fencing, gates, paths, etc. General planning conditions should be used to cover these (see model condition 4).
96. There has been concern about whether restoration and aftercare conditions can cover works to water areas or watercourses. Preparation of the margins of water areas or watercourses will usually involve the movement or use of soil or soil-forming materials and can therefore be required as a restoration condition. This means the initial planting and management of the marginal or aquatic vegetation can be covered by an aftercare condition or scheme.
See Schedule 3, Part 1, Paragraph (5) of the 1997 Act.
97. Conditions may be worded so that, if it can be demonstrated that the aftercare objectives have been met, an early termination of the aftercare period can be achieved with the written agreement of the planning authority. Consultation with interested parties needs to be carried out prior to the termination of the aftercare period. On request from any person with an interest in the land, planning authorities can issue a certificate confirming that aftercare steps have been complied with - providing they are so satisfied.
DRAWING UP CONDITIONS
98. Planning authorities need to consider what conditions are required to ensure satisfactory reclamation. Conditions should be based on pre-application discussions and the site survey provided with the planning application, perhaps as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment. Draft conditions should be discussed with operators to ensure they are practicable.
99. Planning conditions for reclamation will vary according to:
- characteristics of the individual site;
- intended afteruse;
- type of mineral being worked;
- method of working;
- timescale of the working; and
- planning policies for the area.
100. Where possible conditions should refer to drawings submitted in the application which described the proposed operations or afteruse rather than specifying detailed matters in conditions. For example, there is no need to specify the height of soil mounds if these are specified in the drawings.
RESTORATION AND AFTERCARE SCHEMES
101. Planning authorities can use conditions to secure the submission of a restoration and aftercare scheme, rather than specifying the detailed requirements of restoration and aftercare in conditions ( see paragraph 93). These schemes can provide flexibility and allow for:
- the use of the most advanced techniques;
- identification of more appropriate afteruses; and
- unforeseen circumstances such as faulting, unrecorded old mine workings or water infiltration.
102. Schemes are usually prepared by the mineral operator, or a consultant working for them, with advice from the planning authority and consultees. Separate schemes for restoration and aftercare may be submitted, or both combined into a reclamation scheme. It can take time for the schemes to be prepared and agreed, therefore planning authorities need to specify in conditions a date for submission of the schemes that provides sufficient time for them to be agreed (see model conditions 1 and 2).
103. The restoration scheme should include details of:
- landforms proposed;
- soil types, depths and characteristics;
- soil handling machinery and on-site vehicle movements;
- soil stripping, soil storage and reinstatement;
- soil-forming material usage;
- locations of important geological exposures; and
- drainage channels.
104. Variability in the mineral extraction process and restoration materials means that adjustments to the scheme may be necessary as site working progresses. The scheme should therefore be subject to regular review and any modification agreed. If major adjustments are required then an updated restoration scheme may be necessary.
105. It is good practice for operators to start preparation of a restoration scheme at least 9 months prior to commencement of restoration on all or part of the site. It needs to be submitted to the planning authority at least 6 months prior to commencement of restoration of the full site or any phase.
106. An aftercare scheme requires two levels of information:
- an outline strategy of commitments for the 5 year aftercare period; and
- a detailed programme for the forthcoming year.
107. The outline strategy broadly identifies the steps to be carried out in the aftercare period and their timing. A summary of the main items to be covered within the outline strategy is given below.
Outline Strategy for an Aftercare Scheme
Timing and pattern of vegetation establishment
Fertilisers, Weed Control etc
Irrigation and watering
108. The detailed programme normally covers requirements for the forthcoming year, including those identified above. It is recommended that the first years detailed programme be submitted with the outline strategy. Subsequent detailed programmes can be submitted as part of the annual report ( see 118).
Detailed Annual Programme for an Aftercare Scheme
Tree and hedge establishment
109. The preparation of an aftercare scheme normally begins at least 9 months prior to commencement of aftercare on all or part of the site. It needs to be submitted to the planning authority at least 6 months prior to commencement of aftercare of the full site or any phase.
110. Planning agreement are attached to most planning applications for the extraction of minerals in Scotland. General advice on the use of planning agreements is given in SODD Circular 12/1996. Planning agreements for mineral sites are often used to secure the preparation of annual reports, assessment reports and financial guarantees.
111. For some afteruses such as nature conservation, which may not generate sufficient funds to be self-sufficient, it may be appropriate for planning authorities to seek a planning agreement between the owner and/or mineral operator to secure long term management beyond the statutory 5 year aftercare period.
112. The Scottish Executive considers that financial guarantees are an appropriate means of reassuring local communities of operators' commitment and ability to meet their restoration and aftercare obligations. Financial guarantees to ensure full restoration and aftercare should the mineral operator fail to implement the agreed works can be provide by mutual funding schemes. However, in Scotland it is common practice for operators to provide a restoration and aftercare bond as a financial guarantee. 2
2 See paragraph 3.65 and 5.27 of Effectiveness of Provisions for the Aftercare of Mineral Workings. DETR (2000). www.planning.odpm.gov.uk/epamw/index.htm
113. Financial guarantees need to reflect the scale and type of mineral extraction proposed and avoid imposing costs on operators beyond what is necessary. Calculation of the bond by an independent specialist, perhaps paid for by the operator, will ensure that the sum calculated takes account of the full cost of restoration and aftercare, including professional fees. The bond can be reviewed at regular intervals during reclamation to ensure that it is in line with the cost of restoration and aftercare. Funding can be released as various stages are completed and the extent of disturbance is reduced. Letters releasing the funds will provide operators with confirmation that various stages have been reached.
114. The four main financial guarantees are:
- Insurance Company Guarantees (Surety Bonds) - These are provided by insurance companies and guarantee payments when operators are unable to satisfactorily complete restoration and aftercare works required by a planning agreement. Insurance companies base these bonds upon an appraisal of the technical ability, financial structure and track record of the mineral operator. Insurance companies will typically only offer bonds for up to 5 years. This may mean that surety bonds are not appropriate for long term mineral workings. Insurance companies may be unwilling to provide a new bond after the initial period if a company appears to be in financial difficulty.
- Bank Guarantees - These guarantees are underwritten by a standard security taken over assets or against a company's overdraft/borrowing facility. The bonds are secured against tangible assets and can be granted for extended periods of time in excess of 5 years.
- Parent Company Guarantees - A holding company or parent company may offer this type of guarantee for one of its subsidiary companies. The guarantee can however be lost if the parent company or another subsidiary company encounter financial difficulties.
- Mutual Funds - These are guarantee scheme covering several operators, where risks are spread and the group offers security. Planning authorities can call upon the funds in the event of financial failure of a member that results in failure to comply with reclamation requirements. British Aggregates Association (BAA) and the Quarry Products Association (QPA) both have restoration guarantee funds.
115. It is important that the landowner, who in most instances will not be the mineral operator, understands their legal responsibilities and the legal powers of the planning authority. The landowner could ultimately be responsible for breaches of planning control and may be the recipients of enforcement action. Where possible the landowner should be made aware of their responsibilities and the terms of the financial guarantee.
MONITORING AND ENFORCEMENT
116. Mineral operators need to ensure that adequate systems are in place to correctly monitor site reclamation. Environmental auditing, either as part of an internal process or based on an industry standard, is beginning to be used by some operators to assess reclamation standards. It is also essential that planning authorities monitor for compliance with conditions and take enforcement action when necessary. Planning authorities must allocate adequate staff resources to ensure consistent and effective monitoring and enforcement.
117. It is good practice for planning authorities and operators to discuss the nature and frequency of monitoring before planning permission is issued. A planned series of visits by the planning authority at the main stages of reclamation can be agreed. These would include activities carried out during the extraction period that have implications for successful reclamation. These meetings can be referred to in planning conditions.
ANNUAL REPORTS AND MEETINGS
118. Most planning authorities specify in conditions the requirement for annual reports throughout the extraction, restoration and aftercare periods. It is recommended that annual reports:
- be based on annual site investigation;
- include a record of all the works undertaken in the previous year (not just restoration or aftercare works);
- cover both good points and problems;
- provide a detailed programme for the forthcoming year; and
- indicate whether compliance with specific conditions has been achieved.
119. A meeting between the person(s) responsible for carrying out aftercare, the planning authority, and any other expert advisers such as SNH is generally convened following receipt of the report.
120. Conditions or a planning agreement can specify the date and/or timings for submission of an annual report and convening of an aftercare meeting (see model conditions 28 and 29). The timing of the meeting will depend on the type of afteruse. For agricultural afteruse this could be late winter/early spring when soil conditions may be readily assessed. For forestry and amenity woodland, early spring would be an appropriate time, when annual growth can be readily assessed. The most suitable time for the annual meetings for amenity and nature conservation afteruses will depend on the type of afteruse or habitat being established.
121. In addition to the annual reporting, there may be occasions when independent professional expertise is required by planning authorities to assess whether the required standard of reclamation is achievable, or has been achieved. This can be provided in assessment reports prepared by suitably qualified professionals. Planning conditions or agreements can specify the occasions when these reports are required and the information to be provided (see model condition 19).
122. On the cessation of each phase of restoration and aftercare planning authorities may require an assessment report which examines whether the requirements of any conditions or schemes have been attained and if necessary specify remedial action. In some cases restoration may be followed immediately by the initial aftercare works in which case a report that combines the assessment of both restoration and aftercare may be appropriate.
123. Planning authorities may also request an assessment report, such as a soil resource survey, prior to the start of restoration to determine whether reclamation can achieve the standards of soil material or soil-forming material suitable for the proposed afteruse. This is particularly relevant to reviews of old mineral permissions.
TECHNICAL WORKING GROUP
124. Most sites have a liaison committee or advisory panel established prior to development commencing which encourages structured liaison between the mineral operator and the local community. In addition, planning authorities may form a technical working group responsible for reporting back to them on reclamation. The planning authority could chair the group. It may consist of representatives from the planning authority, mineral operator, any tenants or landowners and other interested parties. The group could meet twice a year until the end of the aftercare period. Although, the composition of the group and the frequency of meetings will be determined by the size, duration and sensitivity of the proposal.
125. The involvement of the landowner in the aftercare process should be encouraged so that when the land reverts to the landowner, either during or at the end of the aftercare period, they are fully aware of the objectives and techniques and are able to achieve the appropriate standards of aftercare.
REVIEWS OF MINERAL PLANNING PERMISSIONS
126. Guidance on implementing the new review provisions under Section 74 and Schedules 9 and 10 of the 1997 Act is contained in SODD circular 34/1996. Where a site is already subject to conditions which satisfactorily provide for restoration and aftercare there is no need to alter them. In other cases, appropriate restoration and aftercare conditions can be imposed.
127. Review sites have often been worked for many years, so the proposed new schemes for restoration and aftercare need to take account of the existing physical conditions and limitations. For example, older sites may have limited soil resources available for restoration purposes, or alteration of the site boundary may be required to enable the creation of suitable landforms. The afteruse chosen at the time a site was first permitted may not be appropriate at the time of a review, therefore a degree of flexibility is needed.
128. Local plans or minerals local plans can express in general terms the planning authority's strategy for mineral working and related development taking into account national and structure plan policy. They can provide guidance to applicants on the need for reclamation of surface mineral workings. They may provide further guidance on:
- information to be submitted with an application;
- preferred afteruses and reclamation standards;
- financial guarantees; and
- monitoring requirements.
129. Local plans or minerals local plans may also include policies on abandoned or dormant sites which are considered unlikely to be reactivated during the plan period. This will help provide certainty to the local community and secure reclamation at the earliest opportunity.
130. Enquiries about the content of this advice note should be addressed to Ben Train, Planning 3, Scottish Executive Development Department, 2-H81 Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ Tel: 0131 244 7532 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Further copies of this PAN and a list of current NPPGs and PANs can be obtained by telephoning 0131 244 7543. This PAN and other PANs and NPPGs are available on the Scottish Executive web site www.scotland.gov.uk/planning
131. Scottish Development Department Circular 5/1982, The Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Act 1981 Explanatory Memorandum, has been cancelled.