Subsidence problems that may constrain, add to the costs of, or delay development are widespread in England. Extensive sources of information are available, such as datasets held by the British Geological Survey and the Coal Authority, but are not always used fully in planning for development and determining planning applications. Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) Note 14 on instability was published in 1990 and later augmented by a specific Annex 2 on subsidence and planning. That guidance improved the consideration given to subsidence in planning but key advances tended to be focused on specific areas selected by Government for demonstration projects and a major derelict land reclamation initiative. Elsewhere, implementation has been patchy. Although subsidence issues tended to be taken into account in areas of extensive past underground mining, appreciation of the issues has been more difficult to establish where potential subsidence relates to isolated mining or natural underground cavities. Recent reform of the planning system has led to continuing replacement of PPGs by a new series of Planning Policy Statements (PPSs). There are currently no plans to bring PPG14 or its annexes into a PPS format and, therefore, a risk that it will gradually be forgotten and that good planning responses to subsidence may decline. Sustainability appraisal of spatial plans and environmental impact assessments of development proposals could help to ensure that this important issue is not overlooked, but existing guidance on assessments does not refer explicitly to subsidence.

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