(Title Image: Coflein Mapping)
Petition Supporting Evidence
Petitions Committee Report (link)
- Putting a 500-metre buffer zone between opencast mines and residential areas isn’t currently mandatory in Welsh planning law.
- The Welsh Government should call-in plans for opencast mines due to the effect they have beyond the immediate local area.
Chair of the Petitions Committee, David Rowlands AM (UKIP, South Wales East)
- The application for an opencast site near Varteg in Torfaen breached guidance in the MTAN 2 (planning guidance for mining) in relation to the buffer zone.
- The Planning Inspectorate ignored MTAN guidance when the developer’s appeal (against its rejected planning application by Torfaen Council) was successful.
- Calling in all opencast mines and reviewing them would ensure consistency in planning decisions.
- There are a number of examples of inadequate restoration of opencast sites; both petitioners argued more needed to be done and supported an upfront deposit scheme for restoration – which isn’t currently included in new draft planning guidelines for Wales.
Lynne Neagle AM (Lab, Torfaen)
- The Varteg decision by the Planning Inspectorate flew in the face of Welsh Government guidance.
- She hopes we won’t see any new opencast applications.
- Lynne criticised the length of time it’s taken the petition to get this far – up to five years.
Mark Reckless AM (Con, South Wales East)
- Planning guidance allows for a sensible level of local discretion and these decisions are better taken by local planning committees than handing down statutory/mandatory guidance.
- What would happen if the UK or Welsh government decided that coal was needed to ensure energy security?
- The Welsh Government should consider offering more planning support to smaller local authorities.
Dawn Bowden AM (Lab, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
- The landscape around Merthyr has completely changed due to the Ffos-y-Fran opencast site; there’s a very clear public interest that mine owners properly restore sites after use and the Welsh Government/local authorities should ensure money is set aside to fund works.
Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West)
- Mining companies have gotten away with “criminal” neglect of opencast sites after use – there are numerous examples.
- MTAN should be replaced by a new law; as long as it’s just guidance local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate will be able to find exceptions.
Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP, South Wales Central)
- The planning system is undemocratic and technocratic with decisions made by bureaucrats, overturning decisions made by planning committees.
- UKIP supports legally-binding local referendums for major planning applications.
Welsh Government Response
Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham)
- New planning guidance will be restrictive and discourage future planning applications for opencast mines – it’ll also apply to applications currently awaiting decisions.
- The Welsh Government won’t have to use call-in powers if applications are discouraged.
- Policies in relation to restoration will be strengthened, including “financial security” to secure restoration.
The report was unanimously noted.