Planning controls and opencast mining - economic considerations

The extent to which economic factors are a legitimate planning consideration has long been a difficult and uncertain area of law. In 1988, the Court of Appeal gave clear signals in the controversial Royal Opera House case that the courts would adopt a generous attitude to the subject, and a recent High Court decision concerning opencast coal mining underlines the significance of the current trend in judicial thinking on this issue. The decision has provoked concern that the role of development control as a system for environmental protection is being threatened as a consequence.

Northumberland County Council v Secretary of State for the Environment and British Coal Corporation (Queens Bench Division, 23 February 1989) concerned a planning application by British Coal to operate a large opencast mine and related facilities covering more than 1,000 acres in Northumberland, part of which fell in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Council failed to determine the application within the prescribed time-limit and,

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