AMs debate anti-opencast petition report



(Title Image: Coflein Mapping)

P-04-472 “Make the MTAN law” P-04-575 “Call in All Opencast Mining Planning Applications”
Submitted by Dr John Cox, United Valleys Action Group
Signatures: 7,360 (combined – online)

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.

Key Points

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.

Vote

The report was unanimously noted.

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