HC Deb 05 April 1990 vol 170 cc781-2W
Mr. Brandon-Bravo

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what arrangements he has made with British Coal about the reclamation of colliery sites.

Mr. Moynihan

My Department and the Department of Energy have held a number of discussions with British Coal about the problems of coalfield dereliction. I am glad to say that, as part of the outcome of those discussions, the British Coal Corporation has accepted responsibility for the restoration of collieries which close in the four years following 31 March 1990.

I regard this as an important step forward in placing environmental responsibilities where they belong. I believe that as a result of this agreement land will be reclaimed to an acceptable standard more quickly than would otherwise be the case. We shall keep the arrangement under review and will be considering how the problems of coalfield dereliction may best be tackled in the longer term.

In large part, these additional liabilities will be eligible for deficiency grant under the Coal Industry Act 1990, so there will be no significant adverse impact on the corporation's finances.

The undertaking does not apply in Scotland and Wales where the derelict land grant systems operate on a different basis.

The full terms of the agreement are as follows:

  1. 1. British Coal will continue its current practice of consulting with the relevant local planning authority(ies) about the appropriate planning future for the sites of any colliery which closes.
  2. 2. In respect of any deep mine started before 1 July 1948 which closes within four years commencing 1 April 1990, British Coal will agree to an acceptance of responsibility for the restoration of such sites to a soft end use. This acceptance of responsibility will not affect in any way the corporation's present practice of seeking appropriate planning consents for redevelopment of the site as soon as appropriate following any announcement of closure.
  3. 3. When the planning consent provides only for restoration to a soft end use, British Coal will demolish all buildings, plant and machinery structures or erections and will restore the colliery surface areas, together with adjoining or associated tip areas used solely for the deposit of mineral waste for that colliery, in accordance with a scheme agreed with the mineral planning authority, within a period of 24 months from the date when mining operations have permanently ceased, or such longer period as may be provided for in the agreed scheme.
  4. 4. Where the planning consent provides that the whole site or part of the site is appropriate for redevelopment, the 782 land will be valued as if no responsibility for restoration to a soft end use existed, but to discharge its voluntary undertaking, British Coal will contribute to any subsequent derelict land grant-aided scheme the notional cost of restoration of the whole site to a soft end use to a standard acceptable to the mineral planning authority. In a situation where the cost of such restoration is unable to be agreed between British Coal and the mineral planning authority, then such costs will be determined on the basis of an independent valuation.