Planning applications and Coal Mining Risk Assessments

If your site is in the Development High Risk Area, for most forms of development you must submit a Coal Mining Risk Assessment to your Local Planning Authority.

In common with other consultees, the Coal Authority defines development areas based on their degree of risk.

All land within the coalfield falls within either our Development High Risk Area or Development Low Risk Area.

If your site is in the Development High Risk Area, for most planning applications you will need to submit a Coal Mining Risk Assessment (CMRA) to your Local Planning Authority (LPA).

The CMRA should identify coal mining features present and the risks these pose. It should then set out any investigatory works and the remedial or mitigation measures needed.

The CMRA should demonstrate to the LPA that the site can be made safe and stable for the proposed development.

If a site contains mine entries, their exact location should be established by intrusive site investigations and the findings set out in the report, specifically when the layout of the development is being considered or the quantum of development is identified.

This is to demonstrate to the LPA that the layout of the development has been informed by the location of the mine entries and any necessary ‘no-build’ zones.

Coal Authority policy is that building over the top of, or in close proximity to, mine entries should be avoided wherever possible, even after they have been capped.

View the Coal Authority’s policy on building on or within the influencing distance of mine entries

To minimise the risks to public health and safety, and related liabilities, it is important that wherever your site is located, you make appropriate consideration of the risks posed by coal mining features.

Check if your site is in a high risk area on the coalfield

You can use the Coal Authority’s interactive map viewer to see if your site is likely to be in a Development High Risk Area and needs a CMRA to support your planning application. It is recommended that you contact your LPA for confirmation of this.

Find your LPA

The Coal Authority, in its role as statutory consultee, does not require the submission of CMRA for some types of application or forms of development, these are listed on the exemptions list.

If you are submitting a planning application in a Development Low Risk Area then there is no statutory requirement to submit a CMRA to the LPA.

However, the proposed development still lies within a coal mining area and could contain unrecorded hazards. If any coal mining feature is encountered, immediately report it to the Coal Authority 24/7 hazard line on 0800 288 4242.

The exemptions list

This exemptions list is divided into type of application and nature of development.

Only one of these requirements needs to be met for a CMRA not to be needed.

In these cases, as set out in Part A and Part B below, there is also no need for the LPA to consult the Coal Authority’s Planning and Development Team.

However, the LPA can request the submission of any information it considers necessary to inform the decision making process and this could include a CMRA.

The LPA may consider that there are other cases where an exemption is justified, which lie beyond the examples given below.

Part A – Exempt by type of application

Types of application:

  • householder development
  • heritage consents, including listed building or conservation areas
  • advertisement consent
  • lawful development certificates

  • hazardous substances consent
  • tree or hedgerow works, tree preservation order or in conservation area
  • prior notification

Although we appreciate that ground instability is not a formal consideration of the prior notification process under Class ZA, we have requested that LPAs consult us on such development.

We will then provide comments to the LPA on the coal mining legacy features present for those sites were demolition and construction of new dwellings is proposed via this process.

Part B – Exempt by nature of development

There are also exemptions for developments where building and/or ground works are minimal.

Examples of where groundworks are likely to be insignificant for development proposals include:

  • bin stores and smoking shelters, as these are unlikely to require deep and extensive foundations or groundworks
  • storage containers, as these are unlikely to require any groundworks as they are usually placed on existing site surface or on slabs
  • solar arrays, as the solar panels are unlikely to require deep and extensive foundations or groundworks and are often merely placed on the site surface freestanding with adjustable legs

If you are in any doubt about whether you need to submit a CMRA with your planning application, the LPA will be able to advise you.

Nature of development Typical recent examples Justification for not requiring a CMRA
Pure ‘changes of use’ of land or buildings Agricultural land to garden use, office to residential use No groundworks
Changes of use of land where no buildings or structures are proposed and groundworks are minimal Car parks with provision of unbound surface, external manège, external storage areas, provision of unbound footpaths Minimal groundworks. Such exemptions only apply where there are no significant groundworks or engineering operations (beyond possible surface scraping and installation of loose materials)
Erection of buildings or structures with minimal foundations or groundworks Electric vehicle charging points, ground-mounted air con units, air source heat pumps, decking, smoking shelters, building canopies, containerised back-up generator, portable cabins for storage purposes only, solar arrays Minimal disturbance of ground
Means of enclosure Fences, walls, gates The erection of these types of buildings or structures is likely to require minimal disturbance of ground
Street furniture and similar Signage, public art, lighting or CCTV columns, cycle racks, benches Minimal disturbance of ground
Alterations to existing non-residential buildings that create no new floor space New shop frontages, new windows or door openings, mezzanines No groundworks

Applications relating to modular buildings which are proposed to be regularly or permanently occupied, such as classrooms, offices and hospital buildings, may need to be supported by a CMRA, but this should be proportionate to the nature of the development proposed and at the discretion of the case officer.

Where built development is proposed within the Development High Risk Area to support the solar farm, including masonry structures or large kiosks with substantial foundations, a CMRA should be provided to the LPA.

The LPA will be able to advise you if you are in any doubt as to whether or not you need to submit a CMRA with your planning application.

The Coal Mining Risk Assessment

Preparing a desk-based CMRA requires a suitably qualified person, who is competent in dealing with ground stability and mining-related hazards, to review relevant information and assess the risks posed by historical coal mining.

Where risks cannot be discounted, it provides the opportunity to discuss what further investigations are necessary.

Relevant degrees held by professionals competent to carry out a desk-based CMRA include:

  • geology
  • geotechnical engineering
  • mineral surveying
  • mining engineering
  • structural engineering

It is likely that a competent person with these qualifications will be a member of one or more of the following relevant professional institutions:

  • Geological Society
  • Institute of Civil Engineers
  • Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining
  • Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
  • Institution of Structural Engineers

Although these professionals can prepare the assessment, the Coal Authority considers the sign-off for these reports should be undertaken by a chartered engineer or geologist with at least 3 years’ experience in ground investigation.

As is common with this type of professional reporting, authors and reviewers and their relevant competencies should be identified at the start of the assessment.

The report submitted to support the planning application should be the final version, signed off by the competent report authors, and should not be in a ‘draft’ or ‘issue for comments’ form.

Content of a Coal Mining Risk Assessment

To help you prepare a CMRA, here is a brief outline of what it should include.


This should include the site location, with a plan and a description.

It should also include a description and layout of the proposed development, including the planning application description and plans where possible.

Sources of information used to inform the report

This could include, but is not limited to:

  • an up-to-date consultants’ coal mining report, or similar factual report
  • mine abandonment plans
  • geological information
  • a site history based on historic mapping of the area
  • past desk-based assessments of ground conditions for the application site or adjacent/nearby sites
  • results of past intrusive site investigation works undertaken to assess ground conditions for the application site or adjacent/nearby sites

Identification and assessment of site specific coal mining risks

This part of the report should identify the potential risks associated with coal mining legacy for the proposed development site.

This should include consideration of such specific risks as:

  • mine entries
  • shallow coal workings, recorded and probable
  • workable coal seam outcrops
  • mine gas
  • recorded coal mining related hazards
  • geological features, including fissures and break lines
  • former surface mining sites

The potential for interaction between different factors which could have a bearing on relative ground stability should also be appropriately considered, such as the depth of competent rock cover above shallow coal workings, specific geological characteristics and hydrological factors.

There are other features which have implications for acceptable layout, for example surface mining highwalls and fissures. We would also expect the specific location of these features to be considered in the CMRA.

For those coal mining features identified as being present or potentially present, a more detailed discussion and assessment should be made of the risks to the application site and the proposed development.

Consideration should be given to both individual risks and also their possible cumulative effects.

Mitigation strategy proposed

This section is a key part of the CMRA. It should explain how the coal mining issues have influenced the proposed layout and design of the development, where necessary.

The mitigation strategy should set out – and illustrate with plans in the case of mine entries and surface mining highwalls – how any coal mining legacy will be dealt with to ensure safety and stability of the development.

Consideration should also be given to other mining related issues which could be relevant, such as mine gas.

You can refer to the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) guidance ‘Abandoned Mine Workings Manual (C758D)’, or any subsequent updated version of this document.

If the desk-based assessment cannot provide adequate evidence to discount the risks posed to the development by past coal mining activity, details of any proposed intrusive site investigation works needed should be set out within the report.

A Coal Authority permit is required for intrusive activities which will disturb or enter any coal seams, coal mine workings or coal mine entries. Get a Coal Authority permit.


The CMRA should conclude with a summary of the coal mining legacy risks, any further investigations necessary and recommendations for remedial works and mitigation measures required to ensure the safety and stability of the proposed development. The report should demonstrate a clear strategy for addressing the coal mining legacy.

Copies of any relevant supporting information should be included within the appendices of the CMRA. This is particularly important when information has been used to discount any risks posed by past coal mining activity, such as borehole data.

Planning conditions

The Coal Authority is a statutory consultee prior to the grant of permission and therefore not a statutory consultee on the discharge of planning conditions.

We also acknowledge that it is for the LPA to draft, impose and enforce planning conditions and you may amend the wording to suit, however you see fit.

Any enquires you have regarding planning conditions should be directed to the LPA and not the Coal Authority. This is the same for information to address the requirements of any conditions imposed, which should be submitted to the LPA for their consideration. The case officer will then consult the Coal Authority should they consider our input necessary.

Pre-application advice service

The Coal Authority’s Planning and Development Team offers a pre-application advice service, charged on a cost recovery rate basis, to assist developers and their advisors when considering planning and the technical issues relating to coal mining legacy features.

Read more about pre-application planning and technical advice for proposals within the Development High Risk Area on the coalfield

If you are interested in our pre-application advice service, send your enquiry to

Contact us in relation to our role as a statutory consultee

Coal Authority planning and development team


Telephone 01623 637 119

Information for Local Planning Authorities

Local Planning Authorities on the coalfield can access the Coal Authority’s data portal to download data for their administrative area.

Download a list of the Local Planning Authorities on the coalfield: Local planning authorities on the coalfield (ODS, 5.59 KB)

Users will need their username and password to access the data, which has been provided to all registered contacts within your Local Planning Authority.

Access the Coal Authority’s data portal

Please contact the Coal Authority’s planning and local authority liaison team if you do not know who the registered contact is within your Local Planning Authority, or if you have forgotten your username or password.

The data and plans are made available to Local Planning Authorities to provide the evidence base for the statutory development plans and to undertake consultation and the determination of planning applications.

Updates to this page

Published 17 September 2014
Last updated 1 June 2023 + show all updates
  1. Added an attachment listing Local Planning Authorities on the coalfield

  2. The exemptions list has been updated to include electric vehicle charging points, ground mounted air con units, air source heat pumps and containerised back-up generators, as these are likely to require minimal ground disturbance. We have also clarified our position on the need for a Coal Mining Risk Assessment to support modular buildings and solar arrays.

  3. Updated guidance on checking if your site is in a high risk area on the coalfield and added details of pre-application advice service

  4. Update to the Guidance for Developers - Risk Based Approach to Development Management (Version 4)

  5. Updated coal mining risk assessment exemption list document

  6. First published.

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