Surface Mining

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 22nd March 2007.

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Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin 10:30 am, 22nd March 2007

What discussions he has had with UK Coal on the future of surface mining in England and Wales.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department of Trade and Industry

My noble Friend the Minister for Energy met Gerry Spindler, the chief executive of UK Coal, on 22 February and the future of surface mining in the UK was among the topics discussed. The issue has also been discussed in the Coal Forum, of which they are both members.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

Where does the Minister think surface coal mining fits within the so-called renewable energy policy of the Government? Given that research and development into clean-coal technology is at a very early stage, does he share my concern about UK Coal's plans to extract 900,000 tonnes of coal from an area of outstanding natural beauty in Huntington and New Works in my constituency? Would he like to elaborate on his conversation with the chief executive, specifically on that point?

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department of Trade and Industry

The hon. Gentleman will know that, quite properly, I cannot comment on a particular project that is going through the planning process. That would not be the right thing to do. All these matters are, of course, considered very carefully on environmental grounds. We hope that UK coal production has a significant future in Britain—an issue discussed in the Coal Forum. UK production amounted to some 9.4 million tonnes of deep-mined coal and 8.6 million tonnes of surface-mined coal. The hon. Gentleman will understand that that makes a not insignificant contribution to energy supplies. Given the difficulties in world markets, we need to produce more of own energy in Great Britain. We need a balanced and rational approach to the issue, but none of my comments relates to the particular project in the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

Photo of Judy Mallaber Judy Mallaber Labour, Amber Valley

After last week's appalling decision to allow UK Coal to ruin the beautiful countryside at the Lodge House site in my constituency and a recent similar decision at Longmoor in the constituency of my hon. Friend David Taylor, will the Minister urgently discuss with his colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government how to stop planning inspectors totally misinterpreting the original intention of the revised MPG3—mineral planning guidance—guidelines and how to reassert the presumption against open-casting? As stated in those guidelines, local authorities know best about the balance of local factors and it is not environmentally acceptable to state that immediate appalling damage can conceivably be put right by dubious assertions about the long-term restoration of a site. Will the Minister also have urgent discussions with—

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department of Trade and Industry

I do understand the question. Although I gave the figures for across our countries, in fact less than 1 million tonnes was produced through surface mining in England. There are tight planning controls—

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Recent planning decisions will mean that by next year this trend will be massively reversed, with opencast output in England...

Submitted by Joe Henshaw Continue reading

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department of Trade and Industry

We have talked about skills, and I am happy to educate the shadow Secretary of State on this matter. There is a presumption against development if the proposal is not environmentally acceptable or cannot be made so by conditions or obligations attached to a consent, or does not offer local or community benefits to offset the adverse impact. I will not ask the hon. Gentleman to repeat that, but that is the situation. I hope that my hon. Friend Judy Mallaber will forgive me, but it would be inappropriate for me to comment on a particular planning decision.

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Dear Mr Malcolm Wicks (Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department of Trade and Industry) As you may be aware, a decision to allow the appeal for opencast mining at Lodge House as been made. When the facts of the application are considered against the planning framework this decision is a travesty. Opencast mining at Lodge House is opposed by the vast majority of local residents, all affected...

Submitted by Neil Paget Continue reading