With an emphasis on regeneration and rural placemaking, the plan succeeds previous opencast coal plans and focuses strongly on promoting development and implementation of projects which will enhance the natural environment.
Councillor Jim Roberts, Cabinet member for economy and infrastructure, East Ayrshire Council explains: “Following the collapse of the opencast coal industry in 2013, we were left with a derelict landscape, scarred by years of opencast activity. As a result we decided to draw up a new Minerals Plan, with support for exciting projects including the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership (CCLP), which aims to deliver a variety of heritage and landscape projects across the area.
“Formulating the plan has been a long and meticulous process – it’s been important to get this right, involving communities and interested stakeholders at every step of the way since our first public consultation in 2016. Altogether we’ve carried out three rounds of public engagement which have been instrumental in shaping the final plan.
“Once the plan had been approved locally it was submitted to the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division. They scrutinised it from February to July 2019 and finally passed it with only minor changes.
“Our plan supports the CCLP objectives. The CCLP team, part of our Planning and Economic Development Service, put in a bid for National Lottery Heritage Fund money in November 2019 which will, if successful, secure over £6m funding for projects. Having our plan behind the bid gives it real weight and we hope it will help the bid when it is considered by their committee. We await the outcome in March.
“I’m particularly pleased that that aside from regeneration priorities, the plan contains policies which will be used to assess any application for minerals extraction. These will be instrumental in protecting our precious peatlands, assessing landscape impact, protecting residential amenity and securing financial guarantees, and will ensure that any developments for minerals extraction will be subject to assessment against a robust and detailed policy framework.
“Alongside the innovative and transformation work that our dedicated coal team has been doing to restore the many sites that were abandoned in 2013, this plan makes sure the future is looking very bright for restoring and protecting our natural heritage.”