ADDRESSING OPERATIONAL ISSUES
26. Communities in the vicinity of minerals sites expect to see compliance with the terms of planning permissions. These terms may include requirements for the preparation, monitoring and reporting of minerals operators' environmental audits. Planning authorities should not control or over-ride, through planning measures, matters that are the concern of other regulators. PAN 51: Planning, Environmental Protection and Regulation provides advice on the relationship between the two systems.
Environmental Impact Assessment ( EIA)
27. A key part of a minerals planning application is the assessment of the environmental effects of proposed workings. The requirement for EIA (either for new sites or for extensions to existing sites), will be determined by the nature of the proposed development and the sensitivity of the location. Screening and scoping for EIA are important considerations 4. Where EIA is required, operators and planning authorities should work closely to ensure that all relevant environmental issues are carefully identified so that unnecessary delays are avoided following the registration of the planning application. Advice on controlling the environmental effects of surface mineral workings is given in PAN 50. These and other environmental considerations should form part of the EIA with the submission recording the level of pre-application consultation undertaken.
28. Where feasible, new sites should be guided to locations close to markets thereby contributing to reducing energy consumption and pollution. A Transport Assessment, submitted in support of an application, should assist the planning authority in coming to a view on the development's transport impact. Construction aggregates are generally transported no more than 50 km by road before they become uneconomic, although higher value minerals may serve more distant markets. This effectively defines a single central belt market area covering the Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh city regions, where, to reduce impact on communities, the motorways and trunk roads where available will generally be part of the preferred transportation routes from production sites.
29. Where there are significant transport impacts on local communities full consideration should be given to the provision of routes which avoid settlements. Where rail, coastal or inland shipping are not viable alternatives to road haulage, the key issues are usually related to site access, vehicle control and monitoring under the conditions of the extraction site's planning permission. Further guidance on transport considerations is given in SPP 17: Planning and Transport. and the control of traffic at surface mineral workings is addressed by PAN 50: Annex C.
30. Consideration should be given to the adverse effects from noise on site including that arising from blasting, drilling, crushing, the operation of machines and fixed plant and the transporting of materials. Planning authorities should satisfy themselves that adequate measures are in place to mitigate impacts satisfactorily. Depending on the sensitivity of receptors it is preferable to have a ridge, baffle mound or other solid feature taking account of landscape impact, between a mineral operation and nearby settlements. Advice is provided in PAN 50: Annex A. Advice on noise arising from blasting is contained in PAN 50: Annex D and more generally by PAN 56: Planning and Noise.
Dust and Air Quality
31. Likely exposure to dust arising from mineral extraction is a material planning consideration. Health concerns can also arise as a result of anxiety among residents close to a proposed site if they believe emissions to be damaging to health. Dust is a key community concern and PAN 50: Annex B emphasises the importance of pre-application discussions, making it all the more important for information and the proposed means of mitigation to be provided by operators to help allay anxieties.
32. Concerns over the likely effects of dust emissions should be assessed against the existing body of scientific, medical and epidemiological evidence. These effects have been explored in detail in the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne study, Do Particulates from Opencast Coal Mining Impair Children's Respiratory Health? (1999) 5. The Newcastle study highlights the need to ensure proposals are assessed against the objectives in the Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These objectives are set for pollutants of particular concern for human health, together with dates by which they should be achieved.
33. The Newcastle Study contains a framework to guide the assessment of the implications of proposals on the objective for PM10 particulates. The research suggests that this assessment framework will also be relevant to mineral working generally and should be adopted when drawing up and considering proposals for new sites, or extensions or modifications to existing sites, if there is a residential property or other sensitive establishment within 1 km of any site activity with the potential to generate dust e.g. haul roads, crushers and stockpiles. In doing so, use should be made of information collected by local authorities in undertaking their responsibilities for Local Air Quality Management ( LAQM). Account should also be taken of developing good practice and Scottish Executive Air Quality and Planning Guidance 6 and the National Society for Clean Air's planning guidance on LAQM7.
34. Operators should provide sufficient information to enable a full assessment to be made of the likely effects of development together with proposals for appropriate control, mitigation and monitoring. When considering proposals, planning authorities should have regard to the environmental acceptability of likely dust emissions, including the cumulative impact at residential properties and on other receptors such as natural habitat. Where effects cannot be adequately controlled or mitigated, planning permission should be refused.
Groundwater and Surface Water
35. Suspended solids and acidic drainage, even in small amounts or concentrations, can be harmful to fluvial habitats. To protect groundwater, the Groundwater Regulations 1998 forbid the introduction of certain substances (denoted as "List I substances") into groundwater, and also place limitations on the extent to which other substances ("List II substances") may be permitted to enter groundwater. Mineral working, which constitutes an 'activity' under the Groundwater Regulations, poses little risk of introducing List I substances into groundwater but it has substantial potential to lead to the migration of several 'List II' substances. The Code of Practice for the Owners and Operators of Quarries and other Mineral Extraction Sites published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency provides advice on the control of pollution from non-mineral pollution sources during mineral operations. It also identifies the need for the assessment of the risk of release of List I and List II substances from storage of excavated materials in stockpiles or backfilling, prior to the activity being undertaken. SEPA's groundwater protection policy 8 is an important reference.
36. Surface waters in rivers, lochs and on the coast which may be disturbed by mineral working also need to be managed. The Water Environment (Controlled Activities)(Scotland) Regulations 2005 9 regulate activities that have the potential to impact on Scotland's water environment. Operators now require a licence under those Regulations in order to carry out work which may have an impact on ground water bodies. SEPA can advise on the appropriate level of authorisation and guidance is available on their website.
37. The Executive's policy is to minimise the quantity of waste produced. Material from mineral working deposits including extraction and processing materials such as overburden, waste rock and fines, may be used where suitable for a variety of purposes, e.g. substitutes for primary aggregates, although reprocessed primary by-products are also key to site restoration.
38. The Executive will implement the EC Directive on the management of waste from the extractive industries over the next two years. The Directive provides for measures, procedures and guidance to prevent or reduce as far as possible any adverse effects on the environment, in particular water, fauna, flora, soil, air and landscape and any resultant risks to human health, brought about as a result of the management of waste. Further guidance will be issued in due course.
Restoration, Aftercare and After-Use
39. Proposals for phased working, progressive restoration where applicable and provisions for aftercare and after-use should be incorporated in planning applications. Proposals should also address visual impact during the life of the site, the locational impact of operations, design, layout and phasing. During operations, detailed working and phasing programmes and final proposals may alter. The level of detail necessary at the outset should be sufficient to establish proposed outcomes that meet the terms of development plan policy and mitigate community and environmental impact. Opportunities for enhancing conservation and biodiversity value should be explored in line with Local Biodiversity Action Plans and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. The need to mitigate the potential danger to aircraft from birdstrike or structures should also be recognised. Where a proposed development is located within the vicinity of an airport, consultation with the aerodrome operator will be required in order to mitigate against any birdstrike hazard generated by the development, its operation or restoration 10.
40. Once mineral working has ceased, the land should be reinstated at the earliest opportunity to a standard suitable for other agreed uses, facilitated by restoration during the life of the operation and subsequent aftercare. Submitted phasing and restoration schemes should provide for the use in progressive on-site restoration of minerals unsuitable for the market to avoid the need for stockpiling.
41. Financial guarantees are an appropriate means of reassuring communities of operators' commitment and ability to meet their operational, restoration and aftercare obligations. In order to address the risk of land falling derelict, planning authorities should ensure that consents are associated with an appropriate financial bond unless the operator can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the planning authority that their programme of restoration, including the necessary financing, phasing and aftercare of sites, is sufficient. This could include reliance on an established and properly funded industry guarantee scheme 11. Financial guarantees need to reflect the scale and type of mineral extraction proposed and avoid imposing costs on operators beyond that necessary. Calculation of the financial guarantee should ensure that it covers the full cost of restoration and aftercare, including professional fees. The financial guarantee should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that it is in line with the overall costs of restoration and aftercare. Further advice is given in PAN 64: Reclamation of Surface Mineral Workings.