LAON's 29th Press Release explores further the consequences of the recent Court of Sessions decision that Scottish Coal now have no legal responsibility for restoring certain abandon opencast sites. LAON claim that this decision could affect every current site in Scotland where minerals are being worked and all future applications for mineral extraction.
THE LOOSE ANTI OPENCAST NETWORK
LAON PR 2013 – 29 15/7/13
THURSDAY’S COURT OF SESSIONS DECISION OVER SCOTTISH COAL CREATES AN EVEN BIGGER HOLE IN THE SCOTTISH PLANNING SYSTEM, CLAIMS CAMPAIGN GROUP
On Thursday, the Scottish Court of Sessions, drove a horse and cart through the carefully constructed array of planning policies developed over a long period of time to protect the Scottish people from the long term environmental impact caused by forms of mineral extraction. Up until now, however dire the local consequences were when mining or quarrying took place, there was always the assurance that in the end, things would return to ‘normal’ and the site would be restored.
Since last Thursday, that assurance has been ripped apart, leaving a gaping hole in Scotland’s planning system claim a campaign group
The Loose Anti Opencast Network’s claim is that the Scottish Court of Sessions decision that day, to allow what remains of Scottish Coal to walk away from their responsibility to restore exhausted opencast sites because the cost of restoring them was too ‘onerous’ is in itself not only a disgrace, but sets a terrible precedent.
This decision, does not just affect opencast coal extraction. It sets a precedent that potentially has wide ranging consequences. It could mean that, in the future, any such condition can be set aside utilising the ‘too onerous’ argument for any form of mineral extraction in Scotland. It affects the extraction of all other controversial energy minerals such as shale gas and coal bed methane for example. Its effects, as a precedent, go even further however, to sand, gravel, clay and all other forms of hard rock extraction. At any time now, a land owner can claim that the cost of restoring a working mineral site is too onerous to restore, having worked it and extracted their profit from the site.
How can the public and communities in Scotland ever trust their planning system again when it makes decisions in the future about any form of mineral extraction where conditions are applied that eventually the site will be restored, if they can so easily be legally set aside?
It may mean that in future operators working in all of the above areas, way beyond the energy sector, could, with a degree of certainty, now calculate their production costs at a lower level because they do not have to include in those production costs, the costs of restoring the site. To do so would be too onerous.
If this argument has any merit, the Scottish Court of Sessions in driving a horse and cart through the Scottish planning system has ensured that the gate has been left well and truly open for any future exploiter of Scotland’s mineral wealth to disregard any responsibility for restoring the very land which gave them the wealth in the first place.
This state of affairs reinforces the calls being made by wide sectors of public opinion in Scotland, including The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scotland, The Scottish Liberal Democrats, The Scottish Green Party, The Scottish Opencast Communities Association and Coal Action Scotland for a Public Inquiry into the Scottish Opencast Coal Restoration Crisis, a call which the Loose Anti Opencast Network fully endorse.
Steve Leary, for the Loose Anti Opencast Network said. “ We are making these claims about the consequences that could arise from Thursday’s Scottish Court of Sessions decision over Scottish Coal precisely because, if the argument we have stated here has any merit, they are dire. We have put forwards this argument to alert communities across Scotland about what could happen on their doorstep if this decision is allowed to stand as a precedent. If our argument is true, then any current mineral site operator could utilise the ‘onerous cost’ argument and avoid the cost of restoring sites currently in operations. As for the future, when new mineral applications are applied for and granted, will the obligation to restore the site be worth the paper it is written on?
These are important and urgent questions, which need addressing. As the repercussions arising from this Restoration Crisis mount, we need confirmation from those in authority as to whether this decision of the Court of Sessions has indeed driven a horse and cart through the whole Scottish system of making mineral planning decisions and then enforcing them.
INFORMATION ABOUT LAON
The Loose Anti-Opencast Network (LAON) has been in existence since 2009. It is a UK and Northern Ireland wide network of local community groups opposed to local opencast mine proposals / operations. 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 Stop Cauldhall Opencast, Midlothian Green Valleys Alliance, Rhymney Valley Merthyr Tydfil Anti Opencast Campaign, Merthyr Tydfil Llwdgoed Action, Merthyr Tydfil and Varteg Protest, Torfaen