An approach to the assessment of the agricultural impacts of coal mining
Contentions that expansion of the British coal mining industry into predominantly rural areas may pose serious threats to agriculture and food production are reviewed in the light of the available evidence. It is considered that, whilst the severity of impacts and rate of future development may have been overstated, the conflicts are sufficiently significant to warrant close examination. Further, land use planners are responding for the first time to mining proposals affecting entire coalfields, thus making it essential to establish the correct principles of development from the outset. It is noted that past assessments of agricultural impacts have failed to reflect their diverse and pervasive nature, thus necessitating the identification of more appropriate methods of forecasting. In the light of current weaknesses in practice, it is argued that a formal system of impact assessment may prove necessary. Those characteristics of mining operations and associated end-uses which are likely to affect agriculture are analysed, as are those aspects of the farm enterprise most vulnerable to disruption. These various characteristics are then used as a basis for the assessment of mining-agriculture impacts. A review of the strategic nature of impacts arising from mining programmes is considered desirable, and limited proposals are made regarding assessment at this scale. More detailed consideration is given to an appraisal framework for individual mining proposals, and this is tested in relation to part of the 'Vale of Belvoirl coalfield. It is concluded that, although further methodological refinements and field investigations are necessary, the early implementation of an impact assessment procedure is nevertheless justified.