Guidance

Planning applications: Coal Mining Risk Assessments

If your site is in a Development High Risk Area you will need to submit a Coal Mining Risk Assessment to your Local Planning Authority.

The coalfield is divided into 2 areas, referred to as Development High Risk Area and Development Low Risk Area:

  • the High Risk Area (15% of the coalfield area) is where coal mining risks are present at shallow depth which are likely to affect new development
  • the Low Risk Area (85% of the coalfield) is where past coal mining activity has taken place at sufficient depth that it poses low risk to new development

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

The aim of a Coal Mining Risk Assessment is to identify site specific coal mining risks and set out the proposed mitigation strategy to show that the site can be made safe and stable for the development being proposed.

Check if your site is in a High Risk Area on the coalfield

Use the Coal Authority’s interactive map viewer to see if your site is in a Development High Risk Area and understand if you will be required to submit a Coal Mining Risk Assessment to your Local Planning Authority.

Please activate the ‘High Risk Area’ option to see this information.

If you are submitting a planning application in a Development Low Risk Area then there is no statutory requirement to submit a Coal Mining Risk Assessment.

However it is worth noting that the proposed development still lies within a coal mining area which may contain unrecorded coal mining related hazards. If any coal mining feature is encountered during development, this should be reported immediately to the Coal Authority on 0345 762 6848.

The Coal Authority considers that some types of development do not need to be supported by a Coal Mining Risk Assessment and these are published on our exemptions list.

The Exemptions List

The overall process aims to provide a consistent approach to assessing development proposals across the coalfields. It is recognised that flexibility and discretion is a necessary part of the planning system and as such there may be exemptions to the requirement for an applicant to submit a desk based Coal Mining Risk Assessment in support of a development proposal within the Development High Risk Area.

The Exemptions List is divided into 2 parts: Type of Application and Nature of Development. Only one of these requirements needs to be met; so either the application type or nature of development may exempt the need for a desk based Coal Mining Risk Assessment and also the consequential need for the LPA to consult the Coal Authority.

Part A – Type of application

Types of application:

  • Householder Development
  • Heritage Consents, including listed building or conservation areas
  • Advertisement consent
  • Lawful development certificates
  • Prior notification, of any type
  • Hazardous substances consent
  • Tree or hedgerow works, TPO or in conservation area
  • EIA scoping opinions
  • Variations of conditions – which do not relate to development layouts or conditions imposed to address coal mining legacy

Part B - Nature of development

There may also be exemptions made for the nature of development, where the building and/or ground works are minimal.

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

Nature of development Typical recent examples Do we need to be consulted - is a CMRA required? Justification
Pure ‘Changes of Use’ with no associated construction works Agricultural land to garden use; office to residential No No ground works
Non-permanent structures with no significant ground works Back-up generators; solar arrays; portacabins* for storage purposes only; decking; smoking shelters No No significant ground works
Means of enclosure Fences, walls, gates No No significant ground works
Street type furniture Signage; public art, lighting or CCTV columns, cycle racks, benches No No significant ground works
Alterations to existing non-residential buildings that create no new floor space New shop frontages, new windows or door openings, mezzanines No No significant ground works

*Applications relating to modular buildings proposed to be occupied – for example classrooms, offices and hospital buildings – will need to be supported by a Coal Mining Risk Assessment.

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

Obtaining a Coal Mining Risk Assessment

A Coal Mining Risk Assessment must be prepared by a competent person.

The relevant degrees which may be held by professionals competent to carry out a desk based Coal Mining Risk Assessment include:

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

Although these are professionals which may be competent to prepare the desk based assessment, the Coal Authority considers that 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 report.

Desk-based Coal Mining Risk Assessment reports

The preparation of a desk based Coal Mining Risk Assessment provides the opportunity to commission a suitably qualified person, who is competent in dealing with issues of ground stability and mining legacy related issues, to review relevant information and to potentially discount the risks posed to the site or development by past coal mining activity.

Where the associated risks cannot be discounted, it provides the opportunity for the further investigations required to be discussed.

Content of a Coal Mining Risk Assessment

In order to assist in the preparation of these reports we have set out below a brief outline of what an appropriate Coal Mining Risk Assessment should include.

Introduction

The introduction should include the site location and a description, including a site location plan.

It should also include a description and layout of the proposed development, including the planning application description and the inclusion of layout 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, identified from sources of information.

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 may 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.

Whilst a Coal Mining Risk Assessment may often be purely desk-based, for example based on a review of existing data and documentary evidence, please note that if a site contains mine entries we would expect the exact location of these features to be established by intrusive site investigations and the findings of these to be set out within the report.

This is particularly important when the quantum and layout of the development is being considered. It needs to be demonstrated that the layout of the development has been informed by the location of mine entries, their potential zones of influence and associated ‘no-build’ zones.

Building over the top of, or in close proximity to, mine entries should be avoided wherever possible, even after they have been capped, in line with the Coal Authority’s adopted policy: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-on-or-within-the-influencing-distance-of-mine-entries

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 Coal Mining Risk Assessment Report. 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, how the on-site issues identified in section 3 will be dealt with to ensure safety and stability of the development. This should include the assessment of mine gas and the mitigation measures required as necessary. Consideration should also be given to other mining related issues which may be relevant such as rising mine water.

You may wish to refer to the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) publication Special Publication 32 “Construction over Abandoned Mine Workings”, or any subsequent updated version of this document.

In circumstances where the desk-based assessment cannot provide adequate evidence to discount the risks posed to the development by past coal mining activity details of the proposed intrusive site investigation works necessary to establish the legacy present 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, including shafts and adits.

Further information on the Coal Authority’s permitting process can be found at https://www.gov.uk/get-a-permit-to-deal-with-a-coal-mine-on-your-property

Conclusion

The Coal Authority would expect the Coal Mining Risk Assessment Report to conclude with a summary of the coal mining legacy risks, any further investigations, remedial works and/or 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.

Relevant appendices

The Coal Authority will expect copies of the relevant information to be included within the appendices of the Coal Mining Risk Assessment, this is particularly important when information has been used to discount any risks posed by past coal mining activity, such as borehole data.

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.

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

Access the Coal Authority’s data portal

Please contact the Coal Authority’s planning and local authority liaison 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.

Coal Authority planning and local authority liaison team

Monday to Thursday: 8.45am to 5pm
Friday: 8.45am to 4.30pm

Published 17 September 2014
Last updated 31 January 2017 + show all updates
  1. Update to the Guidance for Developers - Risk Based Approach to Development Management (Version 4)

  2. Updated coal mining risk assessment exemption list document

  3. First published.