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SUPPLEMENT

Meet the experts Inside: n Support for conveyancers and the property market n Top tips for property and land purchases n Chief Executive, Lisa Pinney MBE, talks to Modern Law n Case study: coal mining subsidence


We’re the experts and we’re here to support you Did you know that we’re the authority on coal mining reports? Contact us to find out more about our services including: our CPD accredited archive tour

new and existing webinar resources

tailored CPD sessions at a place of your choosing

tailored coal mining risk reviews for specific geographical areas tailored client visits

For further information please contact the Coal Authority:

0345 762 6848 option 1 groundstability@coal.gov.uk www2.groundstability.com/modernlaw


Welcome W

elcome to our very special supplement with the Coal Authority - the statutory body that helps to protect the public from potential hazards created by the nation’s coal mining heritage. The Coal Authority also provides the vast and priceless mining information and data on this heritage (dating back to the 1700s) and an arguably unique range of in-house experts that work with this heritage on a daily basis. Their Mining Reports Retail team applies their expertise and clear approach to CON29M reports for property lawyers, individuals and businesses. What you might not be aware of is the level of involvement the Coal Authority has in projects affected by mining of all kinds, of its remediation work for watercourses and the level of support it provides to individual property owners and communities built on coalfields. To my own personal surprise, the Authority also has a bold and significant sustainability innovation programme, benefitting not only the public purse (back to supporting and protecting the public in new ways) but also the environment. For me, the most exciting part of producing this supplement has been witnessing a strong and consistent passion for the job and a commitment to get things right for its customers. You don’t often meet an organisation where the culture for putting people at the heart of the business, for shaping services based on feedback and a genuine love for the job is witnessed at all levels but it is here. The future of the Coal Authority isn’t simply in its ‘core’ protection role. All the services it provides help to fund significant projects that will benefit both the environment and the wider economy. As Lisa Pinney MBE, Chief Executive of the Coal Authority said in her interview with us: “As a small body with a big remit we need to focus on doing our core role well but also develop our opportunities, as they could be really powerful for the UK going forwards”. This supplement has been an absolutely pleasure to work on and I urge you to take the time to read it. I hope you’re equally surprised and proud of a public body that not only protects communities but also supports the smooth running of the property market and champions innovations that result in a positive environmental legacy from the legacy of coal mining.

Emma Waddington Co-Editor, Modern Law Magazine. 01765 600909 emma@charltongrant.co.uk www.modernlawmagazine.com

Coal Authority

Contents INTERVIEWS 4 Lisa Pinney

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Lisa Pinney MBE, Chief Executive Officer of the Coal Authority, shares some of the latest innovations and ambitions of the statutory body – from its commercial support to the property market and achievements in sustainability and energy – to explain why it’s the organisation of choice for an exciting and dynamic future.

Meet the experts

Modern Law met with Nick Ethelstone, Andy Simpson, Clare Tasker and Lisa Conway from the Coal Authority’s Mining Reports Retail Team (MRRT), to understand how their work impacts the property market, recent innovations and why they are keen to gather feedback from the conveyancing industry about what they do.

Passion-led potential

Richard Bond, Commercial Director, shares his future growth and development plans for the Coal Authority and explains how the passion of its people has enabled its long-term success and sustainability and how this will drive its future potential.

FEATURES 8 Our mining reports story

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Speaking to Andy Simpson, Senior Client Services Account Manager, Clare Tasker and Lisa Conway, Account Managers at the Coal Authority Mining Reports Retail Team (MRRT), Modern Law found out about the history of the team, how it supports conveyancers and how they can be sure customers are at the heart of everything they do.

Coal mining subsidence

Modern Law takes some time out with Tim Marples, Head of Public Safety and Subsidence at the Coal Authority to discuss the function of the Public Safety and Subsidence team in context of the Coal Industry Act 1994, its continued remit under the Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1991 and its statutory duties with regards to public safety.

A mine of information

The amount of coal mining information the Coal Authority holds on file is vast. Eric Woss, Head of Mining Information and Simon Leeming, Principal Manager for the Coal Authority’s Mining Information team, speaks to Modern Law about the scope and impact this data has.

Top tips for property and land purchases

Across the UK, parcels of land on coalfields have restrictive covenants on their titles. The majority of these covenants were imposed by the National Coal Board or British Coal Corporation but following the Coal Industry Act 1994, the Coal Authority has the benefit of those covenants. Modern Law caught up with Nicole Madin, Principal Property Manager at the Coal Authority, who explains how her team work with conveyancers and other property lawyers to develop this land effectively and safely.

Customer first

The Coal Authority is proud of its “revolution in customer services,” achieved by focusing on the simple things. As Karma Harvey, Head of Customer Strategy and Insight, tells Modern Law, it is committed to listening to the market and offering customers greater input in the provision and shape of its services, to ensure timely and clear information, a more buoyant property market and very happy customers.

Co-Editor | Emma Waddington Co-Editor | Poppy Green Project Manager | Martin Smith Events Sales | Kate McKittrick

Modern Law Magazine is published by Charlton Grant Ltd ©2018

All material is copyrighted both written and illustrated. Reproduction in part or whole is strictly forbidden without the written permission of the publisher. All images and information is collated from extensive research and along with advertisements is published in good faith. Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this publication was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.

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Be part of our exciting future Lisa Pinney MBE, Chief Executive Officer of the Coal Authority, shares some of the latest innovations and ambitions of the statutory body – from its commercial support to the property market and achievements in sustainability and energy – to explain why it’s the organisation of choice for an exciting and dynamic future.

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Coal Authority


“A highly skilled and diverse, sustainable organisation is one of my main aims so that we are seen as an employer of choice and as an inclusive, diverse employer”

Q

What are your main areas of focus as Chief Executive and how do you hope to achieve them?

A

For me, the heart of any successful business and service to the public is having good people and for those people to be valued and supported. The Coal Authority has a statutory responsibility to provide services on behalf of the government to manage the legacy of coal mining. A highly skilled and diverse, sustainable organisation is one of my main aims so that we are seen as an employer of choice and as an inclusive, diverse employer. We also need to raise a greater awareness of the organisation and what we do. More people are already aware of our incident number and how to get in touch with us if they have concerns. We deal with a combined total of around 1200 incidents and subsidence claims per year. It’s really important that people in coal mining areas or those who have concerns about public safety relating to mine entries and mine gas have the right information, have access to our 24/7 phone line and understand that we are absolutely here to help. To do this, we need to continue to develop our partnerships in the private and public sectors and with members of the public. We pride ourselves on our ability to stop and listen to our customers and to share and utilise that information. We also know we do things more effectively when we work with others. It’s also important to look beyond site-specific issues and problems from our mining heritage and look at the opportunities they present. This means increasing our investment into innovations and partnerships to see what can be done with the assets we already have – from the ochre and other by-products of the mine water treatment process, to the water we manage, as well as our data.

Q

How will your previous environmental and public safety experience help in your new role as Chief Executive?

A Coal Authority

I’ve built a career as a leader of operational bodies and working with communities that face really

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“As a small body with a big remit we need to focus on doing our core role well but also develop our opportunities, as they could be really powerful for the UK going forwards”

difficult issues such as flooding. I’ve seen first hand the impact of flooding on people’s lives and their homes – working on big schemes to help reduce risk and make life better for them. From my environmental incident response experience to working with large teams, I have a strong track record in dealing with Coal Authority related matters. I am looking forward to pulling from my experience in building the right pool of talent – particularly in terms of diversity and inclusion. I’m passionate about getting more women into STEM subjects and will be looking to develop how the Coal Authority can be an employer of choice. Since joining the Coal Authority earlier this year, my aim is to bring my experience and more forwards to help support the public and also create new opportunities to use our heritage to enhance the environment.

Q A

What is the impact of mining on the environment and people?

We have a responsibility on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to minimise and mitigate the impact of coal mining heritage. We currently manage over £4 billion worth of liability on behalf of the government. As an organisation, we are focused on public safety and subsidence but also keeping the country running by reducing the impact on infrastructure. We work very closely with infrastructure providers to keep road and rail networks and other infrastructure projects working smoothly. Another important aspect of the Coal Authority is the incredible archive and digital information that we hold on decommissioned mines and how that information benefits the conveyancing and property markets as well as others. For this we have to understand our customers and the markets we work with, to listen to their needs and invest in new ways to support them.

Q A

What challenges does the Coal Authority face and how will you overcome these?

What’s really interesting is the complexity of the challenges. We know the property market continues to change and needs our data and information to support it. One of our duties as a public body is to open up and help competition in that market – as well as provide quality products and expertise from people that have an incredible background in subsidence, the environment and coal mining. We then need to monitor and invest in our asset potential and ensure we don’t miss an opportunity. For example, we need to invest in underground heat from our assets and work with others to develop this further - we could have a really exciting district heating

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strategy! I’m a big believer that sometimes the fantastic things get put to one side with the day-to-day and that’s one of our challenges. As a small body with a big remit we need to focus on doing our core role well but also develop our opportunities, as they could be really powerful for the UK going forwards.

Q A

What is the Coal Authority’s strategy for the future?

Again, to deliver our core statutory role around public safety. We must never lose sight of this. Anything that threatens the safety of someone’s home and family is hugely upsetting and emotional so we always need to consider and develop what we do and how we do it. For example, when a ‘non-coal’ concern is raised by the public, a private business or a local authority, we’re not always the body that can help but we have to think about how we signpost people – being respectful around that really matters. Our partnerships and customer relationships are also incredibly important strategically – at all levels. Finally our innovation focus: how we make the most of the assets and estates that we manage from the mining legacy – particularly by-products from our mine water treatment schemes. For example, we’re one of the largest managers of water in the UK and treat over 120 billion litres of water every year. How do we use that packet of skills, information and products from our core role and develop exciting and sustainable solutions? This is a key part of our strategy and business plan for the next five years.

Q A

What practical steps is the Coal Authority taking to become more sustainable?

It’s really important when you’re a body like us in the environmental field to hold ourselves up to real

Coal Authority


standards – some of this is thanks to using our assets more creatively and our renewable energy projects. Other steps have come from products that were previously classed as ‘waste’ – ochre for example, that used to go to landfill. We have developed this ochre into a pigment for the fine arts market and it can also be used to remediate contaminated land. This is a real winwin for the environment, sustainability and is also good for the bottom line; it helps us do more overall. Our sustainable and renewables approach really helped us to win the Edie award in sustainability and recycling in 2018. It’s a continued part of our commitment to the environment: how we ensure we look for ways to be better, smarter and more sustainable and to share information with others so we can all benefit.

Q A

What campaigns and partnerships does the Coal Authority support?

We always have plenty of campaigns and partnerships going on. To pick out a few:

n Our Groundsure partnership for integrated coal mining and environmental search reports - a real advantage to help combine multiple information streams quickly for customers. n A number of partnership projects in the environment with Defra and other bodies, specifically around metal mines. One recent project in the Tyne area to reduce the impact of metal mining should have a £30 million benefit over the next thirty years. n Another really exciting partnership is our innovation centre at the National Coal Mining Museum – a really powerful connection that will help communicate and link our mining heritage with what is being done to benefit our country in the future.

Q

How has the Coal Authority introduced new ways of working in order to further improve efficiencies and essentially continue to grow and transform?

A

We have been on a journey since the Coal Authority was created in 1994. It was very linked to the

regulation of coal industry and over time it’s evolved to a wider role in public safety and subsidence after decommissioning, minimising environmental aspects of our mining legacy and now into commercial work. We work hard to engage with communities and continue to develop our work and reach around community engagement and further embed our customer service ethos. We’ve just finished working on one of the biggest subsidence projects we’ve ever undertaken. There were over thirty houses affected by subsidence, eighteen of which required demolition. The ground remediation works are now complete and we have been granted conditional planning permission for the site to be redeveloped. Working in partnership with the community has been a key factor in the remediation of this project. Our ability to listen helps us to provide the very best service to the public that we can. Being an organisation that can work well with people when things are hard is essential.

Q

How will the Coal Authority be looking to mitigate risks as you continue to deliver your latest strategy and business plan?

A

We must never forget what we are here to do – our core existence is around safety and to enhance the environment – protecting people against hidden risks. We need to ensure we retain and develop the quality of our people who are all passionate about what they do in the everyday – allowing them to go out, solve problems and be creative. Our partnership work, understanding problems collectively and looking for opportunities, is also fundamental to minimising risk. We must continue to listen to what the markets and customers need and how nimble we need to be – how our data supports the conveyancing market and others in the future and how we can help. We need to be in the spaces where we can add value without losing sight of our high quality services and products and to keep people safe.

Lisa Pinney MBE

is the Chief Executive Officer of the Coal Authority.

“We must never forget what we are here to do – our core existence is around safety and to enhance the environment – protecting people against hidden risks” Coal Authority

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Our mining reports story Speaking to Andy Simpson, Senior Client Services Account Manager, Clare Tasker and Lisa Conway, Account Managers at the Coal Authority Mining Reports Retail Team (MRRT), Modern Law found out about the history of the team, how it supports conveyancers and how they can be sure customers are at the heart of everything they do.

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y opening up the market for mining information in December 2015 (including the provision of CON29M reports), the Coal Authority enabled a highly competitive mining report industry to thrive. From this moment, the Coal Authority has been able to showcase what it does best – inform and protect using cutting edge expertise to share and analyse up-to-date mining heritage information. With a legacy in protecting the public and building relationships, the Coal Authority truly understands the value of putting people first and this is evident within its Mining Reports Retail Team (MRRT). “The introduction of an account management team into the MRRT, was the big turning point in terms of how we deal with customers,” explains Simpson. “Our stakeholders – such as the public, communities, businesses and the government - have always been at the heart of what we do in our statutory role. The authority has a legacy of having to communicate highly technical information in a clear and relatable way. The customer-centric focus of the MRRT has recently been re-energised internally to ensure its relatively small team (considering the output of reports) has plenty of opportunities to give its customer service advisors regular training. This gives them the chance to regularly update themselves with all the things customers might

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need support with on a mining report, and to immerse themselves in the Coal Authority so that they can call upon additional experts if they need. Tasker said: “Our team is kept on its feet developmentally so that we’re always in a position to answer any query on a mining report. If there is a question we can’t answer, then we know who to go to, to find the right advice, quickly. The benefit of dealing with the Coal Authority is that we have all the leading experts under one roof. This means the customer will always get the information they need as quickly as possible.” By allowing the team to work even closer to the customer, Simpson and his team are able to look at different ways of engaging with members of the public, conveyancers and other professionals as well as search providers. As he explains: “This has given the team a greater understanding of what different customer groups want, how they need mining information and when. What works for one sector obviously won’t work for another but this is where we come into our own. “We are nimble enough to respond to different needs in different ways. While our core expertise and methodology is the same, we can support different customers accordingly, regardless of their practice culture and size. Coal Authority


It’s important to get the balance between innovation and quality right “For those people who are unable to give up time to attend events, we also offer webinars. Professionals can simply dial in to listen to a subject that’s important to them, at a time that works for them,” said Tasker.

Getting the balance right While being responsive to the needs of the market is important, Simpson is also proud of the way the authority has innovated to provide mining reports ‘in minutes’ with an aim to make them ‘near instantaneous’ to help speed up property transactions in coalfield areas. However, Simpson stresses that it’s important to get the balance between innovation and quality right. The follow-on service is ‘what makes the difference’ and gives report customers the chance to get some seriously added value handholding through a report - at all stages of the process.

“We are nimble enough to respond to different needs in different ways. While our core expertise and methodology is the same, we can support different customers accordingly, regardless of their practice culture and size” This is thanks to the layers of experts we have on hand and considerable investment into technology to help us translate the data and reports in a way the customer needs and wants. There is always room for improvement and we are determined to continue to listen to customers and then add that value to our products and services.” In addition to supporting and guiding mining report staff and customers, Simpson and his team are frequently seen on the road, leading UK-wide roadshows and CPD seminars for conveyancers. There are also customer satisfaction surveys, tailored events for industry colleagues and open days at mining related locations. These combined activities ensure that the Coal Authority provides opportunities to engage with the market in order to uncover how its reports can further develop and help to create a buoyant and thriving property industry. Coal Authority

“Something we’ve been able to do is to ensure our official Coal Authority CON29M products are more user friendly, to reduce the query time on a report. This makes it more efficient for the conveyancer and better for the purchaser,” Simpson notes, adding: “We are now in a very good position to be highly responsive and work positively for conveyancers, who work in a market that faces increasing pinch points and we have plenty more innovations to come.”

People power One of the reasons the Coal Authority believes it has the edge over supporting conveyancers is down to its heritage in providing accurate, expert information to a wide and diverse audience. “Our people have worked in and around coal mines for decades, so their experience is crucial and invaluable to us. We make it our job to continuously evolve as an organisation, making sure that we add value to our people through developing their knowledge and skills. Our innovation team is a good example of this. They actively work to develop new products and solutions with our coal estate” said Simpson, before adding: “Our MRRT team provides a commercial offering but our customer-centric culture is embedded in a history of delivering expert information and solutions as an authority people can trust. This is why our MRRT is more about the quality of the support each and every customer receives. It’s our mission to help you do the best job for your clients and we’re always keen to understand how we can do that better.” To find out more about our Mining Reports Retail Team please call 0345 762 6848 and select option 1. Alternatively you can get in touch via email at: intouch@ groundstability.com

Andy Simpson

is the Senior Client Services Account Manager

Clare Tasker and Lisa Conway

are the Account Managers in the Coal Authority Mining Reports Retail Team (MRRT).

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Coal mining Modern Law takes some time out with Tim Marples, Head of Public Safety and Subsidence at the Coal Authority to discuss the function of the Public Safety and Subsidence team in context of the Coal Industry Act 1994, its continued remit under the Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1991 and its statutory duties with regards to public safety.

Q A

What is the Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1991 and how does the Coal Authority act on its liabilities?

The 1991 Act places a statutory duty on the mine operator to discharge liability as a result of coal mining subsidence. Our subsidence duties and responsibilities include assessing the damage to land, commercial buildings and residential properties from historical coal mining to confirm, under the 1991Act, if we have a duty to respond. The majority of subsidence claims are settled by repairs but depending on the severity of the damage, its location and the wishes of the claimant, in certain circumstances it can result in the purchase and demolition of the property. Even though the mining industry has almost finished in the UK, the legacies will still need to be dealt with for many years in the future. As an organisation we accept liability for around 40% of claims received. The remaining claims are not accepted because the related damage is not mining related, so we advise the claimant accordingly. If the damage to land or property is as a result of coal mining activities, the cost of the repair is covered by the Coal Authority. Remediation of these claims can cost from a few hundred pounds to millions of pounds. This will also cover damage as a result of a collapsed mine shaft and the subsequent repair. The legacy of coal mining in Britain’s coalfield areas continues long after mining ends. Managing the public safety issues associated with years of historic mining requires specialist knowledge and skills from our in-house Public Safety and Subsidence team (PSS). PSS is a team of over 32 professional experts, coordinated from our Mansfield head office, and includes Regional Project Managers based throughout Britain, covering the major coalfield areas. They are supported by an in-house Engineering design team, the Mining Information team and other specialist teams across the organisation to ensure that our statutory duty can be discharged. The team operates a 24 hours a day, seven days a week hazard line that receives approximately 1000 calls per year from the general public, businesses and local authorities to report hazards and subsidence claims.

Q A

What is a hazard and how can people report a hazard to the Coal Authority?

A hazard often involves a change in circumstances under or near a property or piece of land that is suspected to relate to past coal mining activity. As part of our role in protecting the public we would assess the situation and carry out an investigation if needed.

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We also manage a rolling programme of mine entry inspections to confirm the safety and integrity of the ‘shaft or adit’ mine entry. The programme inspects 10,000 mine entries annually across Britain. During these inspections we check for ground movement, the mine cover integrity to confirm the mine entry is not accessible, whilst also advising the landowner what to look for and who to contact if they notice any changes. Upon the industry’s privatisation in 1994, the Coal Authority also inherited a colliery tips portfolio that it manages to maintain public safety. We also offer a commercial service to inspect tips for other land owners including local authorities.

Q

Can you explain what the Public Safety and Subsidence (PSS) team is doing to raise awareness of the risks associated with past mining?

A

Many more people and organisations are now aware of the Coal Authority and the work that we carry out. We are continually talking to local authorities, statutory bodies, emergency services and landowners, about the expertise we can provide if they’re affected by Britain’s coal mining legacy. We show them what to look out for and how they can report hazards to us. The increase in education and awareness has contributed to the increased surface hazard reports we have experienced in the last three years. We also present at conferences, speak to professional bodies and trade bodies about the Coal Authority, its scope and the remediation works we undertake.

Tim Marples

is Head of Public Safety and Subsidence at the Coal Authority. If you would like to report a suspected hazard you can call 01623 646 333, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Details are available at www.gov.uk/ coalauthority.

“A hazard often involves a change in circumstances under or near a property or piece of land that is suspected to relate to past coal mining activity. As part of our role in protecting the public we would assess the situation and carry out an investigation if needed” Coal Authority


subsidence

Case Study– Kilbowie Road, Clydebank, Scotland Works to repair a collapsed, unrecorded mine shaft on a major Clydebank road. The Coal Authority responded to an emergency situation when the council reported, via the Coal Authority’s 24–hour hazard line, a ground collapse in Kilbowie Road in Clydebank, Scotland.

Risks and challenges Not only was the ground collapse sited in a busy road within a residential area but it also meant that the repairs had to factor in and work around a number of exposed utility services that ran just under the road surface within the void. These had to be both safeguarded and suspended throughout the construction as well as kept ‘live’ so as not to affect services to local residents and businesses. It was also necessary to divert running water away from the repair site. A fractured foul water sewer and storm water drain meant that water needed to be pumped over 150 metres around the void during the works. Poor weather at one point resulted in additional pumps being engaged to manage the flood water surges through the local drainage system.

On plan and on time The stone fill and grouting works were completed on time and were then followed by the construction of a reinforced concrete shaft cap in situ. This phase of the work was progressed in collaboration with the council and a concrete pour was successfully achieved before the site was handed over to the local authority, which was responsible for reinstating the road surface. Tim Marples, Head of Public Safety and Subsidence for the Coal Authority, said the nature of the work was complicated and posed several risks and challenges.

Un-recorded mining activity A desk top review of historical mining data held at the Coal Authority quickly identified no known coal mine shafts at this location.

“The original surface collapse did not represent the depth and complication of this particular repair project, but the team worked seven days a week to ensure it was completed as quickly as possible. Thanks to them I am pleased to say that the works were completed on plan and on time.”

While only six metres deep, the hole was visible at the road surface. The Public Safety and Subsidence team used laser scanning technology as part of detailed ground investigations and discovered a 200 cubic metre void (sink hole). The void was above an unrecorded, wood-lined, rectangular 62 metre deep mine shaft, that was used to extract limestone, iron ore and coal over 100 years ago.

The solution The Coal Authority accepted liability for the shaft and took responsibility for the repairs. Our in-house engineers designed a solution to safely fill the shaft with 140 tonnes of stone and 217 tonnes of pressurised grout followed by a concrete plug that would stabilise the ground.

Coal Authority

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A mine of information

The amount of coal mining information the Coal Authority holds on file is vast. If laid out in paper format, the data would cover Wales. Now stored and updated electronically, their digital coal mining information offers greater interpretation benefits as the data is regularly updated to enhance the delivery of information to conveyancers, customers in the property market and other consumers of digital data. Eric Woss, Head of Mining Information and Simon Leeming, Principal Manager for the Coal Authority’s Mining Information team, speak to Modern Law about the scope and impact this data has. Ever wondered where all the data for mining reports comes from and how accurate and consistent that information is? Thousands of coal mine abandonment plans have been collected by the government since 1872 (when it became law to register the plans of all abandoned mines) and have been maintained by the Coal Authority since it was established in 1994. The Coal Authority also boasts a considerable stockpile of abandonment plans for mines closed before 1872 – a significant account of our mining heritage in the UK - and, importantly, an impressive database of information for its experts to interpret and use to protect the environment and support its clients. Now housed in a bespoke Geographical Information System (GIS), the Coal Authority mining data is used as the foundation for interpreting hazards and risks from old coal mining to the public. “It’s our role in the mining information team to interpret the abandonment plans and GIS data, as well as make it available to our customers. We continually update the GIS to ensure it’s up to date and as accurate as we can make it,” explains Leeming. Previously, to respond to a hazard and update documents, or to use it to respond to a concern, involved sifting through the paper-based information. This was incredibly labour intensive. Now only a small team of mining and GIS experts are required to manage the database. The new digital coal mining heritage data is “incredibly efficient” to access. The Coal Authority’s experts use this and the raw plan data, backed up by technology, to provide even more interpretation about the Coal Authority’s estate now and in the future. “For our team, it’s all about the data and its interpretation. It’s our job to ensure that our customers receive accurate, well-informed data created by experts. Our own Public Safety and Subsidence and Property teams also use this data. This ensures a consistent message is used by conveyancers and other government bodies so we are all working from the same information,” stresses Leeming.

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With over 173,000 mine entries in the system, the Coal Authority helps to “make the unknown known” to ensure that all relevant parties are aware of what lies beneath the land. It is also the Coal Authority’s statutory duty to have due regard to the safety of the public as part of the Coal Industry Act 1994. “Some 57,000 mine entries are situated in urban areas while 130,000 properties lie within 20 metres of at least 1 mine entry – falling into the CON29M reporting distance requirement for a conveyancing mining report. What most people don’t realise is that most conurbations in Britain (outside London) are sat on the coalfield – this equates to around 25% of all properties (around 7 million properties). Often there is limited information known about a mine entry because there are few details on the abandonment plan.” He adds that “even if a mine entry has been capped or sealed, further research should take place prior to development. This will help ensure the risk is adequately managed.” However, there is much more to the Coal Authority than investigation and protection. For example, it’s innovation programme creatively and sustainably uses a by-product from mine water remediation. The data adds significant value to this work as it is used and interpreted by the Coal Authority’s specialist pool of in-house expertise. As Leeming explains: “We continually receive new coal legacy information that we add into our database. This can help others extract green energy from our estate. The technology exists and more companies are investing in sustainable energy creation.” “Because such a vast number of customers need to use and apply the mining information that we hold, it has to be accessible, delivered promptly and in a language and format that people understand. Not everyone is an expert in our coal mining heritage – they have their own jobs to do. We ensure the data is translatable and meaningful as well as reliable.” “Any organisation using the data, whether through a mining report or managing mining legacy, will be working with data cultivated by some of the leading experts in mining, geographic, science and surveying fields. The Coal Authority

Coal Authority


“Because such a vast number of customers need to use and apply the mining information that we hold, it has to be accessible, delivered promptly and in a language and format that people understand”

“grows its own” experts and shares experience across the body. This ensures this living, breathing intelligence and knowledge is passed on to newer members of our team.” “We offer an outstanding level of expertise and reassurance to help clients when they come across coal mining legacy. We have a long history of caring for and improving the environment on the coalfields. We help the public understand the impact of mining.” “We continue to strive to help those living and working in coalfield areas to understand the coal mining legacy and risks. We continue to engage with our stakeholders to share the success we have had in protecting the environment, managing legacy and opening up opportunities. We increasingly engage with the public, commercial enterprises and local MPs so they are better informed. We are the authoritative go-to body on coal mining matters; we’re here to help.”

Simon Leeming

is the Principal Manager of the Coal Authority Mining Information Team.

Map showing Britain’s coalfield areas

Coal Authority

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A mine of information continued

1947, Jan 1

Coal industry nationalised National Coal Board (NCB) becomes operational

1985-89

Digitisation

Transfer of mining information from paper to digital format

1987, March 5

British Coal Corporation NCB becomes British Coal Corporation

1994, October 31

Coal Authority

The coal industry becomes privatised and the Coal Authority is established to undertake statutory duties set out in the Coal Industry Act 1994

2001

Mining reports Online mining reports ordering service is launched providing property speciďŹ c information on coal mining

2007

Mine entry inspections

Coal Authority begin proactive mine entry inspections to identify and where necessary undertake safety works to protect the public

2012 onwards

Mining reports service enhanced

Programme of system automation and IT improvements begin, contributing to the reduction of mining report turnaround times to minutes by 2018

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km 14

Coal Authority


Interview with Eric Woss

Q A

Tell us a little about the creation and purpose of the Coal Authority

The Coal Authority was established following the Coal Industry Act 1994, when the UK coal mining industry was privatised. At this point we became responsible for holding, managing and disposing of interests and rights in relation to unworked coal and other property that transferred to us under the 1994 Act. We are responsible for a wide range of areas in relation to coal and mining. We manage the compensation scheme under the Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1991, which gives property owners comfort where subsidence arises as a result of lawful coal mining. A key focus is also to manage the environmental effects caused by past coal mining, to ensure that the public are kept safe.

Q A

Why is the Coal Authority still in existence when coal mining is an industry in decline in the UK?

People still sometimes refer to us as the Coal Board, but we’re not. In addition to our statutory role around public safety and subsidence, as an organisation we offer support in a variety of mining related areas. From working with agencies such as Defra to provide expert information and environmental remediation support, to aspects of managing mining legacy. Our Mining Information team manage the coal mining information for the Coal Authority - a core function of the 1994 Act – which is held digitally in-house. We update the database on a daily basis to ensure that we supply the most up to date data to those who need it, including developers, government agencies and infrastructure companies who need the very best data to work with.

Q A

What is the role of the Mining Information team?

Our Mining Information team is made up of seven people consisting of mining surveyors, engineers, geographers and geologists. Our team holds a vast amount of knowledge and experience from the former coal mining industry. We have over 120,000 coal mine abandonment plans on file. These plans were used as a basis to produce our Geographical Information System (GIS) database of mining information. Part of our role is to look at the digital abandonment plan information and then interpret how they ‘fit’ to the surface of the modern day landscape. Our team’s interpretation of this data is a key part of our mining information statutory role. Since our GIS team transferred our paper based plans into digital format, we can now access this data immediately. Within the GIS, a symbol marks a coal entry position, but behind that sits a vast amount of metadata – the background information on that feature. This information can then be extracted and included in a mining report within seconds. We work hard to ensure that we attract the right people into the team. We pride ourselves on ensuring that we maintain a high standard of interpretation and expertise to deliver on our duty of care for members of the public and land and home owners.

“The Coal Authority “grows its own” experts and shares experience across the body. This ensures this living, breathing intelligence and knowledge is passed on to newer members of our team”

Eric Woss

is Head of Mining Information at the Coal Authority.

Coal Authority

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Meet the experts “Customer service is so fundamentally important to us and we are incredibly passionate about delivering an exemplary service. Meeting regularly with clients and customers helps us to understand how we can develop and deliver even more� 16

Coal Authority


Modern Law met with Nick Ethelstone, Head of Commercial Report and Advisory Services, Andy Simpson, Clare Tasker and Lisa Conway from the Coal Authority’s Mining Reports Retail Team (MRRT), to understand how their work impacts the property market, recent innovations and why they are keen to gather feedback from the conveyancing industry about what they do.

Q

Explain the role of the MRRT and how it fits into the wider role of the Coal Authority

Nick Ethelstone: The MRRT is made up of ten individuals, including a client services and account management team. We provide commercial products and services to a wide range of customers, including conveyancers, specifically including the Coal Authority’s official CON29M (2018) reports – as required - for properties on the coalfield. The introduction of an account team in March 2016, enabled us to improve our understanding of our customers and get closer to what was important to them. By using customer feedback continuously, we are able to feed that into the development of our products and services, creating the high quality service that the property industry needs today. We provide a wide choice of products to suit all our customers [listed at the end of this feature]. Whilst the mining reports retail team is relatively small in comparison to the wider the Coal Authority we are very proud that we are able to provide extensive support to our customers and offer a variety of market leading mining reports to meet their needs. We work closely with our Coal Authority experts to further enhance our customer service support; this is a unique offering our customers really have come to value when faced with questions about mining activity. Clare Tasker: All of our account management team work directly with the conveyancing community and are on hand to act quickly, whatever the need. We continually keep in touch with our customers via email, face-to-face meetings, webinars and regional events. These also contribute to us gathering valuable feedback and building strong working relationships with all client and customer groups whom we share our wealth of information with. Most importantly, we understand how we can contribute towards keeping the property market buoyant. Customer service is so fundamentally important to us and we are incredibly passionate about delivering an exemplary service. Meeting regularly with clients and customers – helps us to understand how we can develop and deliver even more.

Coal Authority

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For further information please contact the Coal Authority:

0345 762 6848 option 1 groundstability@coal.gov.uk www2.groundstability.com/modernlaw 18

Coal Authority


Our MRRT is the central contact point for all mining reports enquiries. All types of queries come into the team and our highly skilled customer service advisors are on hand to enable conveyancers to do their job effectively and efficiently, as well as providing guidance to homeowners and homebuyers themselves when needed. Over the last two years we have invested a significant amount of time in exploring our customer relationships, gathering first-hand feedback on what we do well, what we could do even better and also where the property market is going next. This has helped us to refine our offering and be confident that when conveyancers choose us, they will receive a fast, first-class, market leading and accurate service. Part of our success is based on how well we interact with our colleagues across the Coal Authority; our experts who work in the field and our experienced mining surveyors. Lisa Conway: The aim of our mining reports service is to ensure the information contained within our reports is clear and easy to share with your clients. We have a summary table within our Coal Authority CON29M report Coal Authority

“Our success is based on how well and how easily we can interact with our colleagues across the Coal Authority; our experts who work in the field and our experienced mining surveyors” to help view the findings quickly. For those customers who prefer to discuss the report over the telephone, our customer service advisors are there to offer more detail, answer any questions you might have and ensure that support is there throughout the transaction. The Coal Authority’s purpose is to safeguard the public and provide peace of mind enabling stakeholders to make informed decisions. In doing so, we work with our customers to inform, help and support them; this helps to sustain a buoyant and vibrant property market.

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Clare Tasker

Andy Simpson

Q

How do you work with conveyancers?

Andy Simpson: The Coal Authority is well-versed in working with professionals, to share our expertise and explain our mining report information. More recently we have been working even closer with conveyancers to understand their needs as part of the report requirements, especially in terms of delivery. Although we are nationally recognised for our wide choice of mining reports, the support doesn’t end there. We are incredibly proud of our customer service team who interpret our information in a user friendly way to identify any potential risks and key information. This enables conveyancers to have professional and insightful conversations with their clients. CT: With our account management team in place, we are actively seeking more opportunities to be able to provide training and information for anyone who would like it. We spend a lot of time on the road creating opportunities for conveyancers to meet us, ask us questions, feedback to us and learn. We hold a number of CPD accredited training events, seminars and sessions in addition to our various webinars.

Q

What do people need to think about when purchasing a property on a coalfield? How can the Coal Authority help? AS: What we want everyone to know is that the Coal Authority is here to support the public with coal mining related incidents. Having a mineshaft under or near a property shouldn’t deter people from buying or selling a property. Encouragingly, the inclusion of a mine entry in a report doesn’t always deter people from buying a property. People are starting to appreciate when they are purchasing a building in a coalfield area. However, occasionally some lenders and solicitors raise questions about the related risk.

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Lisa Conway

Our team often respond to letters and emails from homeowners, conveyancers and sometimes MPs (who correspond with us on behalf of their constituents). We share our information as part of our role in protecting the public. Often this correspondence can lead to a positive outcome for the home or land owner.

Q

How are you continuing to evolve and innovate the MRRT and what you do for conveyancers?

AS: Following the account managers joining MRRT in 2016, we have become even more customer facing and interactive with our clients and customers. We share more widely how we have helped conveyancers and other customers to support the purchase of properties sited on coalfields. CT: We have an incredible online ordering system and we have streamlined the information without compromising on the quality of the information, the clarity or accuracy. AS: We are very proud to say that our report turnaround is superfast. We can have a mining report sent to a customer’s inbox within minutes of ordering. Whilst we are continually complimented on our speed of service, we’re looking to develop this even further. We are again in the process of taking recent feedback from the market to refine our reports and the advice we provide to help conveyancers do their job with greater speed. CT: As a team we have helped drive how we do things differently across the authority - thanks to our inhouse IT being more responsive and agile for business requirements. Everything we do is now embedded culturally in the Coal Authority, helping to ensure we are responsive to all customer needs and that we continue to evolve what we do. We have recently helped the conveyancing market by: Coal Authority


n Launching our new market leading coal mining and environmental search report, the Enviro All-inOne, in partnership with Groundsure (as a direct response to customer feedback). n Working with the Cheshire Brine Compensation Board to allow them to take back their information on Cheshire Brine, enabling it to produce its own reports. n Collaborating with The Law Society on rewriting its guidance documents (parts 1, 2 and 3) as to how conveyancers can order mining reports.

Core Reports

Coal Authority official CON29M

Ground Stability report

AS: We are proud of our achievements; becoming more outwardly facing, responding to customer needs and supporting our partners. We want to continue our relationships and support with conveyancers, they are important in the work that we do. If there is anything more readers would like to hear about or would like one of our account team to arrange a personal visit, please contact our customer service team. Alternatively when purchasing one of our mining reports, ask about our various events and help us do even more in the future.

Nick Ethelstone, Andy Simpson, Clare Tasker & Lisa Conway are from the Coal

Authority’s Mining Reports Retail Team (MRRT).

Enviro All-in-One report

Consultants report

No Search Certificate

Fulfills CON29M 2018 Law Society guidelines

Produced and delivered, with accuracy, in minutes

Dedicated support and guidance from in-house experts

Includes key data from industry leading partners

Reliable interpretation, highlighting risks, from the experts in the industry Confirmation of statutory cover provided in the event of coal mining subsidence damage Appropriate follow on information highlighted, for when you need it CPD accredited, free of charge support materials available

To find out more about working with our team please call 0345 762 6848 and select option 1. Alternatively you can get in touch via email at intouch@groundstability.com Coal Authority

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Top tips for property and land purchases Across the UK, parcels of land on coalfields have restrictive covenants on their titles. The majority of these covenants were imposed by the National Coal Board or British Coal Corporation but following the Coal Industry Act 1994, the Coal Authority now has the benefit of those covenants. Some of these plots can be developed, with the approval of the Coal Authority. Modern Law caught up with Nicole Madin, Principal Property Manager at the Coal Authority, who explains how her team work with conveyancers and other property lawyers to develop land effectively and safely. As you would expect from a nation with a significant coal mining heritage, the UK is home to large parcels of coalfield land that have been protected by development restrictions. Some of the land may be large enough to be developed by house builders whilst other affected areas might be residential gardens or agricultural land. Land affected by coal mining may be restricted for various reasons - in the main, to protect the public.

“Our team work with the vast data held by the Coal Authority on abandoned mines and coalfields and we apply our expertise to assess whether the land can be used in accordance with the proposed development plans. The more detailed those plans, the better” 22

“Owners of land where there are restrictive covenants on their deeds need to seek our approval if they’d like to release the restrictions to ensure that the land is suitable for development. We make our assessments based on their proposed use of the land or development, to ensure that the land is safe for the proposed use now and in the future,” said Madin. She added “we work closely with conveyancers on restricted plots to ensure they have as much information for their client as possible. However, if the land is being sold, we can only engage with the freeholder or landowner.” Conveyancers looking to lift restrictions on their client’s land can speak directly to the Coal Authority’s property team. The team comprises a number of development-focused specialists to offer support and guidance – from mining and mineral surveyors, to planning and development surveyors, valuation specialists and asset managers. “Our team work with the vast data held by the Coal Authority on abandoned mines and coalfields and we apply our expertise to assess whether the land can be used in accordance with the proposed development plans. The more detailed those plans, the better. We do encourage conveyancers to send us as much information as possible and as early as possible to better support your clients.” Madin explains.

Coal Authority


Why might there be a restriction on the land? From farmers to homeowners, UK landowners or freeholders with a restricted plot of land cannot build on or develop that land without our consent. In the past, a restriction would have been applied to the land for any number of reasons – in the main, to protect the public from subsidence damage if the plot was inappropriately developed or used. Many restrictions were also put in place to protect the value of the land. Once a development or use of land has been approved, the land value increases. The Coal Authority often receives a level of consideration but each site is determined on its own merits. As Madin clarifies, “public safety assessments are the number one priority when releasing restrictions. We assess the development plans and the land heritage internally by creating a geographical profile of the land. The only way we can effectively support freeholders is if they provide us with as much detail as possible about their development plans, including drawings, of their proposed development. Without these, it’s incredibly difficult to judge if the restrictions can be removed or not.”

Who to contact The specialist Coal Authority property team is on hand to support property lawyers and their clients. Providing as much information, in writing, is the best way to kick-start an effective and efficient investigation on the land.

Top Tips Madin offers some key advice for conveyancers and owners seeking the removal of Coal Authority restrictions:

1 2 3 4

Always obtain a mining report, as this will provide you with information in relation to past mining events relating to the land in question. We can only speak to purchasers directly if the freeholder’s solicitor provides written approval. This ensures the freeholder’s position isn’t prejudiced. The earlier you speak to us the better. If your client has sought out your help at an early stage, speak to us then as we can help to save time and money by helping to identify issues quickly and work with you. If you’re the freeholder of a restricted plot, contact us if you have any concerns, plans or if you need advice. We have an internal assessment process, working with Coal Authority experts in other teams as well as our own. You can be sure of a high quality investigation at all times.

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It is prudent that the enquiring party has specific details of what they’d like to do on the land. Be as specific as you can be. Provide as much information and outlined plans as you can. We will then be in a better position to support you.

If you have a client looking to sell, develop or use land that has been restricted by the Coal Authority, please provide as much information and supporting documentation as possible. Email the team at property@coal. gov.uk or for more information on the services provided by our property team, please visit https://bit.ly/2p3T8EB

Nicole Madin

Principal Property Manager at the Coal Authority.

Coal Authority

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Passion-led potential Richard Bond, Commercial Director, shares his future growth and development plans for the Coal Authority and explains how the passion of its people has enabled its longterm success and sustainability and how this will drive its future potential.

Q A

Tell us a little about yourself

This is my first foray into the public sector, I joined a year ago. It has opened up a new world and shown me how committed the Coal Authority is about its work, knowledge and vision for the future.

design business into a national, award-winning practice and was a go-to advisor on interior design for a number of media outlets, including the BBC. I’ve been fortunate to work with some fantastic charities, including the Terrance Higgins Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support, helping to develop strategic opportunities.

The passion in the organisation is widespread and inspiring. The energy that people have for their work and the development of skills and expertise is evident across the whole of the Coal Authority. It’s a truly vibrant and innovative place to work.

I helped cultivate and head the UK volunteer advisory body at Macmillan Cancer Support, comprising 120 volunteers that are heavily involved in strategic engagement with the charity; a radical move for the Third Sector.

I have worked in various sectors, but underpinning everything I do is my experience as a Chartered Management Accountant and Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

In essence, I’ve spent most of my career looking at the way business operates. My focus is always what works best for the markets those companies work with - and want to work with - and what the most appropriate products are to meet these requirements – which is very much my role here.

My primary focus has always been helping businesses to grow and evolve. I previously served as a Board Director for Center Parcs and was part of the team who set up Tesco Direct. While at Centre Parcs, I led integration projects to bring new businesses into the organisation and replaced eleven legacy systems to facilitate the separation of the UK and European sides of the business. I’ve spent the last ten years building a family-owned interior

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Q A

What is your main focus for the Coal Authority?

For me, one of the most exciting things we’re focusing on is our commercial development to help underpin the delivery of our core services. Like a lot of people, I originally thought “isn’t coal a historical issue?” So, I was surprised to find that the Coal Authority is a vibrant organisation, which continues to grow and transform to meet the needs of the

Coal Authority


“The Coal Authority is a vibrant organisation, which continues to grow and transform to meet the needs of the nation, and is just as relevant now as it was when it was set-up in 1994�

Coal Authority

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nation, and is just as relevant now as it was when it was setup in 1994.

n Incorporating work on renewable energy projects, as part of our mine water treatment schemes

Britain’s coal mining legacy is staggering. We need to continue to develop an operation that’s large and exciting enough to retain the incredible knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of the mining sector.

n Our work with the development industry and landowners to advise on risks and preventative measures to ensure they can safely build on affected land to provide homes and jobs for the next generation

We work on a daily basis with local communities, developers, other government bodies, local authorities and infrastructure customers. This is appealing for our experts as they get to continually apply, enhance and grow knowledge and understanding of this immense legacy.

n Our growing international connections. This is an area for me to focus on in the next few years – to ultimately become the go-to authority for anyone working on or with coalfield affected land.

By building on these opportunities, we can offer a sustainable place to work with desirable projects and opportunities. By retaining and sharing our expertise with new generations of professionals in-house, we can also understand more about the impact of our mining heritage. All of the creative and innovative commercial projects contribute to us delivering our core requirements efficiently and cost effectively to support longevity; ensuring that Britain continues to develop harmoniously alongside its coal mining heritage.

Q A

How has the Coal Authority continued to evolve into different sectors?

We hold valuable expertise and critical data on coal mining activity. Details of all of the coal mines decommissioned from 1872 onwards, when they were legally required to be mapped, are safely stored in Mansfield – alongside a wealth of information dating back as far as 1750. There is now a greater understanding of what the effects of the legacy of coal mining are, what is required of us and how our information is analysed, used and shared. Managing Britain’s coal mining legacy is not a short-term job, we know we will be needed for a considerable time. We’ve evolved from focusing purely on coal to managing the impacts of other types of mining too. One of the biggest developments has been our ability to engage with markets that can benefit from our expertise. This focus enables us to develop new relevant offerings to add value to a wider audience. For me, some of the most exciting offerings include: n Our extensive series of support programmes for Defra working collaboratively on metal mine water treatment schemes

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Building commercial opportunities and consultancy services adds to our knowledge, is stimulating for our people and helps to fund our statutory role by reducing the burden on the taxpayer. It also ensures our experts’ knowledge remains fresh, relevant and regularly utilised. The great thing about working with the Coal Authority is that you don’t have to teach us about coal mining and if you come to us early enough, we can probably help you save money and time as we can potentially advise how to overcome problems before they are encountered.

Q A

What does innovation mean to the Coal Authority?

Innovation is part and parcel of what we do every day but for me, there are two core sides of our developments here. Firstly, we constantly innovate to create cost savings and efficiencies. We’re always conscious of our need to provide value for money, resulting in a passion-led drive for change throughout the organisation. Obviously we spend a great deal of time on our core work. Last year we treated 122 billion litres of water, operating over 70 mine water treatment schemes, which protected and improved 350km of rivers, lakes and estuaries. Innovation in mine water treatment is ongoing, as we develop doing things cost effectively, efficiently and ethically; last year we won the edie sustainability award for recycling and resources for our solar power based, energy use reduction innovations. We have developed solar installations to run our water treatment pumps, generating our own electricity. We have also created stunning green developments for water treatment – taking raw mine water through the reed beds to produce crystal clear water.

Coal Authority


“We can offer a sustainable place to work with desirable projects and opportunities. By retaining and sharing our expertise with new generations of professionals in-house, we can also understand more about the impact of our mining heritage”

The second side to innovation at the Coal Authority is linked to our core role and looks at how we can use by-products of remediation work and turn them into revenue generating opportunities. Excitingly, we have discovered that ochre (a by-product from mine water) is ideal for stopping some contaminants leaching into land, so it is now used to remediate affected areas. Recently, we have partnered with the fine arts market to develop the use of ochre as a specialist pigment. There are also potential opportunities in the future in areas such as district heating schemes and water supply. By looking at dynamic solutions and using our waste assets positively, we continue to enhance our skills, advisory expertise and cost effectiveness.

Q A

Tell us more about how the Coal Authority champions sustainability

If you think about us as a repository of skill and information, from the coal mining estate data to our multi-layered and often unique expertise, then it’s vital that we continue to attract and retain people who can interpret and keep that data relevant. Those people are an incredible asset to the public and need to be retained within our organisation. The next generation won’t understand mining in the same way as those who have worked here since 1994, so we are looking to keep those skills and expertise alive with ongoing knowledge transfer and management; which includes on the job training and learning gateway reviews. We are creating our ‘grow our own’ scheme, which focuses on developing internal talent to ensure we can provide these skills in perpetuity. We also enhance and grow expertise in related areas by providing our teams with challenging projects on a daily basis, working closely with our partners and clients.

Coal Authority

Sustainability surrounding renewables and the environment is also essential for us: financially, as part of a wider skills development piece and to help protect and enhance the country so that we can live harmoniously in a nation with so much coal mining heritage.

Q A

How is the Coal Authority taking its mining legacy and turning it into an asset for the future?

When we think about the conveyancing market, we know we need to retain and develop our knowledge asset and our skills to support and aid the property market. It’s the right time to invest in environmental and water projects – especially after a long and hot summer. The coal market provided our energy in the past and we’re also looking at ways to derive energy from its heritage for the future. By using our services, whether it’s mining reports, advisory services or other by-products, our customers help us to be more sustainable for the future. This is a win-win situation for our customers and the nation. Customers benefit greatly from mining experts and specialists who live and breathe their area of expertise on a daily basis, and the nation benefits through our enhanced protection and ability to deliver new innovations and creative solutions. For me, our innovation programmes, by-product initiatives, strategic developments in how we share and present information for our customers, and our working relationships with other key organisations are incredibly exciting for the future of the Coal Authority, the public and our partners.

Richard Bond

is the Commercial Director at the Coal Authority.

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Customer first The Coal Authority is proud of its “revolution in customer services,” achieved by focusing on the simple things. As Karma Harvey, Head of Customer Strategy and Insight, tells Modern Law, it is committed to listening to the market and offering customers greater input in the provision and shape of its services, to ensure timely and clear information, a more buoyant property market and very happy customers. The Coal Authority has always thrived upon building customer relationships and is very outwardly focused, working with multiple partners in the private, public and government sectors. These interactions take place in a number of ways, through national infrastructure projects and remediation, to the conveyancing markets and planning system. “Building relationships has always been critical to us but what is often unknown by a lot of our customers is the extent of the products, services and expertise we offer. We are now getting closer to our customer groups to really share what we do and to understand their needs and pressures to help deliver an even greater service,” Karma explains. “On the mining reports side, where most conveyancers interact with us, we have made significant changes to our

online ordering platform, helping customers to obtain information quicker and easier. We have specialist customer service advisors readily available to support customers with their reports. This includes interpreting our experts’ language in more detail to respond to concerns. As an organisation, we have also invested heavily in technology to make the reporting process incredibly fast without losing the quality, thanks to our digitised mining heritage database. By putting the customer first and their needs, we have created something for us to be proud of. Importantly, conveyancers benefit from our products and services by being able to offer a first class service of their own with transparent information delivered to their own clients - along with the peace of mind that the report is provided by leading coalfield experts in the UK,” she adds.

“The customer-first approach means that Coal Authority experts from across the organisation can be pulled upon to provide highly technical and up-todate specialist information, delivered in a way that conveyancers, purchasers and lenders can understand” 28

Coal Authority


What does this mean for conveyancers and their clients? The customer-first approach means that Coal Authority experts from across the organisation can be pulled upon to provide highly technical and up-to-date specialist information, delivered in a way that conveyancers, purchasers and lenders can understand. “Our customers, including conveyancers, can pick up the phone to us or email at any time. We constantly work on the content of our reports and how it’s presented to support the industry. We take the time to understand the pressures that the legal sector is under and work closely with customers and The Law Society to improve what we do. We constantly seek feedback on the information we provide so that we can continue to enhance our reports and customer support after a product has been purchased and at various focus groups and CPD seminars for professionals across the country,” Karma explains. The Coal Authority is keen to stay nimble and strives to do even more for professionals and their clients in the ever-changing property market. The enhanced Enviro All-inOne report – a collaboration with Groundsure – is a good example, as Karma explains: “We created the first fully integrated coal mining and environmental searches report, following direct feedback from our customers. Our data is backed up by a team of mining experts to provide peace of mind and our databases are updated regularly, ensuring the most up-to-date information is available to the market.” She adds: “We offer customers the chance to have their say in a number of different ways; from our work to reach out to local communities through focus groups and public meetings to surveys, seminars and roadshows with conveyancers across the country. It’s embedded in our culture to listen and act upon feedback at all times, to better understand how customers feel about the Coal Authority and what we can do better.” Long-term relationships are “very important” to the Coal Authority and the customer feedback to date has been “incredible.” Karma believes this is because what the Coal Authority does, across the board, is “very important.” “Aside from the statutory role of the Coal Authority to protect the public, we also want to reassure homeowners, to support legal professionals effectively and allow them to work faster and smarter and to aid the provision of a buoyant property market,” she said, adding:

It’s all about you Karma is keen to explain that it is intrinsic to the role of the Coal Authority that its customers come first, whether they are members of the public, local community groups, business, partner organisations or Members of Parliament. She said: “We have made it incredibly easy to contact us and access the Authority - whether that is online, over the phone or in person at our office. We are proud to be an accessible government authority and strive to ensure that every customer experience with us is a positive one.”

Why we’re great to do business with After its establishment in 1994 to manage the impacts of the nation’s coal mining heritage, the Coal Authority has evolved beyond all recognition in terms of what it does and how. As Karma explains: “As an authority, we work daily to collect, update, enhance and understand our data as well as protect the public, remediate the land and innovate new ways of using by-products from historic mining activity and treatments. The experts who help the Coal Authority deliver are the same people who supply knowledge and support to our customers in a language and format that everyone can understand. “We are incredibly critical to supporting business providing new infrastructure in the UK to help understand the impact of mining heritage across the network. The reason that we are so valuable to the property market is due to our multilayered support on projects across the country – we don’t just work with the public but with other businesses and government bodies and reflect on each interaction to see if there is anything we could have done better and work on addressing that. “We have evolved so much since 1994 but we refuse to stand still. It’s within our nature to put people first and to provide innovative and creative solutions based on feedback – which is why we’re still here today, supporting the property market and helping it to thrive.” If you would like to share any feedback following this article please get in touch with karmaharvey@coal.gov.uk

Karma Harvey

Head of Customer Strategy and Insight at the Coal Authority.

“What we’ve learned is that conveyancers really value our expertise and heritage in the coal industry and our almost exclusive understanding of the risks, the impact and how to articulate that in a report.” “Most of our experts were mining surveyors and go-to specialists in their field before joining the Coal Authority so there isn’t much they don’t know about the mining industry! If we can help to translate any problems, risks or solutions clearly to conveyancers then that’s a hugely positive result for customers and the property market,” Karma said. Coal Authority

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Coal Authority


Profile for Charlton Grant

Modern Law Magazine - Coal Authority Supplement  

Modern Law Magazine - Coal Authority Supplement