Planning and development: using Coal Authority data
28 March 2018
The Coal Authority’s comprehensive data is crucial to safe planning and development. Darren Moody explains how surveyors can make use of its resources
Coalmines may no longer be the feature of the UK landscape that they once were, but they can still pose risks for housing development. Around 7m UK properties are located on former coalfields, and with demand for new housing growing, homeowners and developers should be mindful of such risks.
Managing this legacy is the responsibility of the Coal Authority, a non-departmental public body set up in 1994 and sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The authority was established to manage the long-term impacts of coalmining, primarily by providing licensed access to the comprehensive data it holds. It also deals with subsidence claims, ground collapses relating to mine entries, and mine water remediation.
For developers and prospective property owners, the Coal Authority’s information provides a crucial resource.
Its comprehensive data includes:
- 112,000 coalmine abandonment plans going back to 1872
- 8,000 other mineral mine abandonment plan images.
In 1989, the first computerised mining report system was launched to respond to enquiries from prospective property purchasers or land developers. This coincided with the first Law Society Scheme for Coal Mining Searches (CON29M), which aimed to standardise consultation procedures.
CON29M details major risks when purchasing residential or commercial properties or land and continues to be a key resource, producing around 312,000 reports in 2016–17. A report will cover:
- past, present and future underground and surface mining activity
- mine entries
- coalmining geology
- coalmining subsidence claims
- reported hazards and mine gas emissions
- Cheshire brine information, detailing areas where brine was extracted and there are subsidence risks.
In 2015, the Coal Authority began to let third parties re-use its mining data under licence, to produce CON29M-compliant and other types of mining report.
Working with other public and private bodies, the Coal Authority uses its wealth of data in products for the conveyancing market, developers and their professional advisors. These include the following.
- Mine Entry Interpretive reports: these provide more detailed analysis and advice about mineshafts, as well as audits and an assessment of the potential instability risk on the property, if any.
- Ground Stability reports: these offer coalmining and brine subsidence claim search information, together with property-specific details on potential hazards relating to natural subsidence.
- Enviro All-in-One: this is a combined coalmining, ground stability, flood and contaminated land risk screening report.
A free, online interactive map viewer also helps owners of land or property identify nearby coalmining features, and should be used to evaluate whether more detailed investigations or reports are needed. The data sets are also available as online mapping services that users can stream directly to their geographical information systems.
As a statutory consultee in the planning process, the Coal Authority works to ensure that coalmining’s legacy is taken into account and development is safe and stable. Local planning authorities are supplied with specific coalmining risk plans identifying areas that require full consideration before development.
The Coal Authority provides pre-development advice on land acquisition, permitting and planning and development proposals. Pre-planning application advice focuses on identifying constraints and any further investigation that may be required. Advice on layout and specification of works relating to coalmining constraints is also available.
A Coal Authority permit must also be obtained before any activity is undertaken that may disturb coal interests, to ensure that risks relating to water, gas and ground stability are assessed.
Information on mining risks is actively shared with stakeholders, and the Coal Authority continues to notify individual households where records show that mine entries exist within or close to their property boundary. These entries have been inspected and will be re-inspected as part of an ongoing programme.
The existence of mine works does not necessarily mean the stability of a property will be affected. However, in the unlikely event that a property is damaged as a result of coalmining, the Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1991, as amended by the Coal Industry Act 1994, places defined duties on the Coal Authority or licensed mine operator to take remedial action at no cost to the owner, mortgage lender or insurance company. In addition, the authority provides a round-the-clock emergency service for hazards that are related to coalmining.
In a climate where accurate valuation of properties is becoming increasingly crucial, the information the Coal Authority provides is vital for surveyors. Written confirmation of their statutory obligations can also be supplied by the authority to any interested parties, including potential lenders, if this assists with valuations, mortgage and insurance decisions.
Darren Moody is Information Manager at the Coal Authority