In October 2020 the AGS posted an article in the Newsletter describing concerns raised by a number of Members with respect to the Coal Authority (CA) and coal mining risk assessments (CMRAs), where the CA was;
- acting as a Statutory Consultee for planning applications (in relevant areas) and thus providing related guidance for developers and
- undertaking CMRAs on behalf of third parties as a commercial service.
Views of Members were sought, following which, discussions were held with the CA and a detailed account of the various concerns was sent. The CA responded to this letter by referring to their ethical wall policy on the basis of which they considered the concerns of members to be unfounded.
In summary the CA state that Coal Mining Risk Assessments prepared by the CA are produced by an entirely different team to their planners, and that CMRAs prepared by the Coal Authority are treated in exactly the same way as those from any other provider and that Coal Authority Consultant’s Coal Mining Report (included in the CMRA), is charged at the same rate for both internal and external customers.
On behalf of Members, the AGS wrote again to the CA requesting specific evidence to support the various assertions made. After a series of holding replies, the Coal Authority informed us that our letter had been escalated to a Stage 2 complaint and would be responded to in due course. In August of this year the CA provided their response to this complaint. Although the CA did not provide any supporting evidence, they did provide a firm assurance that their procedures [the Confidentiality (Ethical Wall) policy and guidelines] are being employed which ensures they act correctly and not in contravention of their status as a non-departmental public body.
The AGS Loss Prevention Working Group has agreed that it has now taken this matter as far as we can at this stage. However, Members are advised that if in future they are involved in a situation where there is particular evidence that the CA is not complying with their stated policy and procedures described above, that evidence could be submitted to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman https://www.ombudsman.org.uk/. The AGS LPWG would be pleased to be copied in to any such correspondence or updated with the consequences and we would be happy provide any support / assistance that we can at that time.