Deputy transport and planning minister Lewis Macdonald began the consultation process by telling a meeting of Scotland's senior local authority planning officials that the review of old mineral planning permissions would be good news for local communities and the environment.
The proposals would give planning authorities the power to suspend mineral workings if an operator fails to provide the necessary environmental information within a reasonable time.
At the bi-annual Heads of Planning meeting in Dumfries, Mr Macdonald said:
'It is vital to ensure that the impact of mineral permissions on both local communities and the environment are properly addressed. Planning consents now have to be reviewed regularly to ensure the highest environmental standards are applied and modern planning standards are adhered to.
'These measures are also needed to ensure that Scotland complies with the EC Directive on Environmental Assessment. Our proposals will be the subject of a full and wide consultation with the industry, planning authorities and other key stakeholders over a three-month period.
'We have also commissioned research into the effectiveness of the existing review of old mineral planning procedures to measure the progress that planning authorities have made in reviewing these applications. The results of this research are awaited with interest.
'Taken together, this package will ensure that the needs of both communities and the environment will be taken into account when considering the future of old mineral workings across the country. Ultimately, if an operator fails to provide the required environmental information, then planning authorities will have the right to suspend mineral workings.'
Over the past decade, legislation has been introduced which requires holders of old mineral permissions to submit proposed new operating and restoration conditions to be considered by the relevant local planning authority. The aim of this is to ensuring modern planning conditions apply and the impact on communities and the environment is minimised.
All old permissions - those begun before 1982 - should now have been submitted for review and legislation also requires that a periodic review of all working mineral sites must now be carried out every 15 years, so progress has also now started on a systematic review of all existing mineral permissions.
Responses on the consultation paper should be sent to Ian Mitchell, Scottish Executive Development Department, Planning Division, 2-H32, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ by 8 February 2001.