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Marine Environment

Volume 174: debated on Thursday 14 June 1990

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action his Department is taking to improve the quality of the marine environment.

[pursuant to his reply, 19 April 1990, c..971]: The Government are determined that the unpleasant practice of dumping colliery minestone on beaches in the north-east of England should stop as soon as practicable. As a result of a great deal of study carried out at the Government's direction various options have been considered for disposal of the waste on land. However, before any disposal on land can begin, British Coal must get planning permission.I am therefore now requiring British Coal to seek all necessary permissions for a land-based means of disposal of their minestone.

It is important to set a deadline for this process. The Government consider that five years is a tight, but not unreasonable, timescale for British Coal to prepare an application, have it properly assessed through the planning system, and to construct the necessary arrangements for dealing with these large quantities of stone on land. I am therefore making clear to British Coal that the Ministry envisages that the licences which permit British Coal to dump minestone on the beaches should end in five years. The only reason for extending the licences beyond that date would be if the outcome of pursuing a planning application were that no practical means of disposing of the stone on land is in fact available to British Coal.

I shall similarly be requiring British Coal to seek permissions for disposing on land the minestone that they currently dump out at sea from Wearmouth and Westoe collieries. For these licences, a seven-year deadline will be set.