3 Former Surface Coal Mines
A number of opencast coal mining sites were affected by the liquidation of Scottish Coal and ATH Resources in 2013 across sites in East Ayrshire, Fife and South Lanarkshire. Opencast coal sites normally have an associated restoration bond in place that provides a financial guarantee so that land can be returned to its original condition upon the expiry of the relevant operating licence. Where the value of the bond covers the necessary restoration work, sites would not be expected to be reported in the survey results, as there will be plans in place to restore the land. For this reason, sites in South Lanarkshire and Fife were not added to SVDLS register and have not been included in the survey results.
Sites in East Ayrshire were affected by a shortfall in restoration bonds that meant the level of financial guarantees fell short of the amount of money required to return all the land to its original condition. For the 2014 survey, East Ayrshire Council submitted information on 13 former surface coal mines with a total area of 4,513 hectares. This was based on the planning application boundary of each mining site, without a more detailed assessment of the status of the land within these sites. For example, some sites included areas that were unworked and still in their natural state or were partially restored or naturalisation had taken place. The details of how to record these former surface coal mines were not fully resolved at the time of the 2014 SVDLS publication and therefore the East Ayrshire former surface coal mines were reported in a separate paragraph and not included in the overall total of derelict land at that time.
Over the past year Scottish Government representatives have met with officials from East Ayrshire, Fife, North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire Councils to agree on how former surface coal mines should be assessed and recorded in the survey. Following this, East Ayrshire Council have undertaken a thorough analysis of their affected sites (see Annex F for detailed examples) and have been able to identify in detail, areas of sites classified as derelict on the following basis:
- Large areas have been broken down into smaller areas to distinguish between parcels of land that still need to be restored to their original condition, parcels that are unworked and parcels derelict or naturalised.
- Areas of abandoned sites where the only element of activity is the maintenance of the site for health and safety reasons have been considered derelict.
- Areas which have been subject to partial restoration which are below the standard expected within the original planning permissions, but which are not considered to be of such poor quality as they would present a significant health and safety danger or environmental risk, are not considered derelict. Only areas of land identified as being unsafe or of very poor environmental quality and requiring further remediation have been recorded as derelict.
- Any former compounds, coal wash areas or haul routes that are still being used for another operational site have not been considered derelict.
This has resulted in a total of 2,217 hectares of former surface coal mines in East Ayrshire being identified as derelict, and these sites have been included in the SVDLS publication results for the years 2014 and 2015.
The table below shows the initial set of data submitted in 2014 based on the planning application boundary of each site, along with the data submitted in 2015 based on the categorisation of land as described above. It can be seen that the detailed categorisation approach has reduced the area of land considered to be derelict by over 50%, from 4,513 hectares to 2,217 hectares.
Table A: Data Submitted for Former Surface Coal Mines in East Ayrshire
|Data submitted in 2014 - based on sizes of planning application boundary||Data submitted in 2015 - based on detailed categorisation of each site|
|Data was not included in the 2014 SVDLS publication total||Data has been included in the 2015 SVDLS publication totals (for both 2014 and 2015 survey years)|
|SITE NAME||Size (hectares)||Size (hectares)|
|Benbain Remainder North||138.3|
|Benbain Remainder TOTAL||591.0||331.9|
|Garleffan 1 & 2||183.0||134.9|
|Skares Area D||66.3||57.4|
|Skares Muir Farm||3.9|
Over the last year Fife also reviewed their Westfield former opencast site near Kinglassie. As a result, the amount of derelict land on this site has reduced in size from 305 hectares in 2014 to 97 hectares in 2015.