What conditions do you need to be aware of when restoring mineral sites and maintaining them after they have been repurposed?
Responsibility for the restoration and aftercare of mineral sites, including financial responsibility, lies with the minerals operator and, in the case of default, with the landowner.
All modern planning permissions are expected to be subject to restoration and aftercare conditions. Earlier permissions can have restoration and aftercare conditions applied via the Review of Old Mineral Permissions (ROMP) regime (for which no compensation would be payable), so it is important to be mindful of this.
Restoring mineral sites
Old mineral workings can be restored for:
- The creation of new habitats and biodiversity;
- Use for agriculture;
- Recreational activities;
- Waste management, including waste storage; and
- The built environment, such as residential, industrial and retail where appropriate.
Planning permission may be required for some of those uses.
Completion of restoration and aftercare is likely to result in the mineral permission being ‘spent’ such that further mineral extraction cannot take place without a further permission.
Restoration conditions require that once the winning and working of minerals has completed or the depositing or mineral waste has ceased, the site shall be restored by the use of subsoil, topsoil and soil-making material.
Aftercare conditions are required to ensure that, following site restoration, the land is brought up to the required standard which enables it to be used for the intended new use. Aftercare conditions cannot require any steps to be taken after the end of a 5 year aftercare period without the agreement of the minerals operator – in contrast to the Environment Bill which is looking to secure net biodiversity gain for 30 years (or longer).
Although planning guidance refers to a financial guarantee only being justified in exceptional cases, some Mineral Planning Authorities appear to be requiring them as a matter of course. Often membership of a relevant mineral operator’s body restoration guarantee fund will suffice.
Depositing waste in a mineral void will require an Environmental Permit.
In certain cases, the operator will be under an obligation to fill a mineral void and it may therefore be possible to show in a waste recovery plan the following:
- Evidence of the obligation;
- Your proposal matches the obligation;
- Evidence that the waste is suitable for the intended purpose; and
- Therefore that you should be able to obtain a waste recovery permit.
For more information on restoration and aftercare please get in touch with our Mining and Minerals team below.