HOUSE OF COMMONS
Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING (COMPENSATION FOR RESTRICTIONS ON MINERAL WORKINGS) (SCOTLAND) REGULATIONS 1987
Wednesday 25 February 1987
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The Committee consisted of the following Members:
(Chairman: MR ALBERT MCQUARRIE)
Ancram, Mr. Michael (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland)
Canavan, Mr. Dennis (Falkirk, West)
Corrie, Mr. John (Cunninghame, North)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James (Edinburgh, West)
Fairbairn, Mr. Nicholas (Perth and Winross)
Forsyth, Mr. Michael (Stirling)
Godman, Dr. Norman A. (Greenock and Port Glasgow)
Hamilton, Mr. Willie W. (Fife, Central)
Henderson, Mr. Barry (Fife, North-East)
Johnston, Sir Russell (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)
Malone, Mr. Gerald (Aberdeen, South)
Marshall, Mr. David (Glasgow, Shettleston)
Martin, Mr. Michael J. (Glasgow, Springburn)
Maxton, Mr. John (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Monro, Sir Hector (Dumfries)
Pollock, Mr. Alexander (Moray)
Stewart, Mr. Allan (Eastwood)
Walker, Mr. Bill (Tayside, North)
Miss P. A. Helme, Committee Clerk.2 3 Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 25 February 1987
[MR. ALBERT MCQUARRIE in the Chair]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Ancram): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the Town and Country Planning (Compensation for Restrictions on Mineral Workings) (Scotland) Regulations 1987. The purpose of the regulations is to make provision for the abatement—in certain prescribed circumstances—of the amount of compensation payable by planning authorities in respect of loss, damage or abortive expenditure arising from an order to restrict mineral workings. The Committee will be aware that the framework of the regulations, the principles of abatement and the circumstances in which abatement may be made, were extensively considered by Parliament in 1981, during the passage of the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Act. Because the compensation arrangements were recognised as being fundamental to the operation of the 1981 Act, there was considerable debate during the passage of that Bill about what proportion of the additional costs it was reasonable to expect the industry to bear. In response to Parliament's concern, an amendment to the Act was introduced which effectively defined the amount by which compensation might be abated. These regulations make provision for the way in which that abatement is arrived at. The text of the regulations is, as members of the Committee will have seen, extremely complicated and it might be useful if I give a brief example of how the regulations will operate. I should stress at the outset that the regulations deal in the main with the abatement of compensation, and not with the actual calculated of compensation. They make some modifications to what should be considered when assessing compensation, but their real import is to provide a means of calculating abatement.
Mr. Alexander Pollock (Moray): Can my hon. Friend give us the basis of the formula for the calculation which precedes the abatement?
Mr. Ancram: The calculation of compensation is based on several criteria, but, effectively, it is agreed between the operator and the planning authority. If there is any dispute, the matter goes to the Lands Tribunal. I could take my hon. Friend through all the steps by which the calculation is arrived at, but he may feel that that would take an 4 undue amount of the Committee's time, when as I said, the instrument relates to the abatement of compensation rather than the calculation of compensation.
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber): Would it be unfair to ask whether these complicated regulations are concerned primarily to compensate the mineral worker or to finance the legal profession?
Mr. Ancram: It was recognised in 1981 that when, for instance, a mineral working had been going on for some time, but the conditions under which it was operating were no longer relevant in the current circumstances, so that changes were made, it was only right that part of the cost of the compensation should be borne by the operator or the industry. That principle was discussed at length during the 1981 legislation. That is, effectively, what the regulations concern. They are about how to calculate the abatement of compensation and not the calculation of compensation, except on the margins where one or two small changes have been made. I shall cite an example of how the regulations will operate. A planning authority would undertake a review of a mineral site within its area and would decide that it needed to take action. It would make an order indicating what steps the mineral operator needed to take to bring the site up to the required standard. When such an order is made, the operator is due compensation for the action taken by the planning authority—not under the regulations, but under previous legislative provision. However, it is considered reasonable, as I mentioned earlier, that the planning authority should not have to bear the full cost of compensation and that the mineral operator should bear some of the burden through reduced compensation. So in certain specified circumstances these regulations would come into play. The full compensation due to the operator will be assessed. Then, using the terms of the regulations, an amount will be arrived at by which the compensation should be reduced. That will be either a lump sum set out in the regulations or a figure arrived at taking into account the notional value of the relevant minerals at the site and the estimated life of the site, depending on the type of order that the planning authority has made. That, in the simplest terms, is a rough and ready outline of what the regulations cover. The formulation of these regulations within the framework of the 1981 Minerals Act proved very complicated and exposed a number of contradicting interests.
Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart): Who else, other than the National Coal Board, is likely to be covered by the regulations?
Mr. Ancram: The NCB is excluded. The regulations will cover private operators of mineral workings, which would include private operations of coal workings, but I suspect that it would be mainly quarries, sand extraction and so on. 5 An effort has been made to cater for those conflicting interests and although the regulations sound complicated, we believe that they will be relatively simple to operate and the principle of the methodology has been agreed by those involved. Therefore, I commend them to the Committee.
Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood): May I ask my hon. Friend a few questions, as there is a private bauxite mine in my constituency which will be affected by the regulations? He referred to the consultations that have taken place and it would help the Committee if he told us who the representatives were. I should like to know, too, how much an operator of a typical mine will lose as a consequence of the regulations. The operators and their representatives may have agreed them, but they are an abatement of compensation and it would be helpful to know about the sums of money involved. Will the new provisions affect a mine operator who has applied to the planning authority for permission to extend his operations or will they apply only when the operator is required by the planning authority to change the conditions under which he operates? I should be grateful for my hon. Friend's guidance.
Mr. Ancram: The representatives of the interests involved were the CBI who were helpful in our discussions. Compensation will depend on the changes that are required by the planning authority. Whene there is a prohibition or suspension of operations there will be an automatic £5,000 6 abatement. That is set out in the regulations. If there is a modification or discontinuance of use, calculations will be made. I could explain those to my hon. Friend, but, in the interests of brevity, I shall not, as they are made fairly clear in the regulations. The amount of compensation will depend on individual circumstances. The regulations will not affect the renewal of permission. I am reminded that there will be a maximum of£100,000 abatement and a minimum of£2,500.
Mr. Pollock: Before my hon. Friend concludes, I wish to ask a question arising from the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart). Iwonder whether there will be a pro rata abatement of fees that may be incurred by a private operator. My hon. Friend will be aware of the disquiet felt about the high level of fees incurred when operators seek permission from local authorities.
Mr. Ancram: That is a different matter which is not covered by the regulations. However, if my hon. Friend wishes to write to me about a specific case, I shall consider it.
Question put and agreed to.
Resolved, That the Committee has considered the Town and Country Planning (Compensation for Restrictions on Mineral Workings) (Scotland) Regulations 1987.
Committee rose at twenty mintues to Eleven o'clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
McQuarrie, Mr. Albert (Chairman)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Forsyth, Mr. Michael
Johnston, Sir Russell
Monro, Sir Hector
Stewart, Mr. Allan
Walker, Mr. Bill