§ Mr. Trotter
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to publish revised planning guidelines on coal extraction; and if he will make a statement.536W
§ Mr. Baldry
We have today published revised planning guidelines for public consultation for England and Wales. Separate consultations are being carried out in Wales. The guidelines deal with both deep mine and opencast coal and with the disposal of colliery spoil.
As foreshadowed in the announcement by my right hon. and learned Friend the then Secretary of State for the Environment, on 25 March 1993, the guidelines aim to strike a balance between the economic importance of this indigenous energy resource and the protection of the environment in a way that is fully compatible with the principles of sustainable development. The draft guidelines set tough environmental tests for the industry. I am confident that, with careful planning and a sensitive approach to local concerns, they can come forward with proposals that contribute to economic growth and provide an environmentally sound foundation for the future. The guidelines are based on three broad principles:
- 1. It is not the function of the planning system to seek to set national limits on or targets for any particular source or level of energy supply. Nevertheless, low-cost coal is an important indigenous energy resource and it would be against the national interest to prevent its extraction where that can be done in an environmentally acceptable way and consistent with wider environmental objectives, including the principles of sustainable development.
- 2. It is also relevant to consider whether a particular proposal would itself provide national, regional or local benefits to the community to offset the disturbance occasioned during development and restoration—eg through contributing to United Kingdom employment, the clearance of dereliction or other improvements to the quality of land, the creation of nature reserves or the provision of other benefits.
- 3. Mineral planning authorities should draw up development plan policies which reflect that approach and must prepare mineral local plans which carry forward those policies and indicate in detail those areas where provision is made for coal extraction and the disposal of colliery spoil, as well as those areas where working or disposal is not likely to be acceptable and where coal resources are to be safeguarded for future working. The preparation of these plans is now an urgent requirement.