Coal Mining Subsidence Claim Succeeds


Coal mining subsidence is a scourge in many parts of the country. In one case, a man whose newly built luxury home was left tilted and cracked by the presence of disused underground workings won the right to six-figure compensation.

The man had demolished a farmhouse that he had bought from his grandparents and replaced it with what he described as a modern, well-insulated palace. A cinema, games room and two large garages were installed in various out-houses and the property was agreed to be worth up to £1.55 million.

However, not long after the project was completed, the property began to display signs of coal mining subsidence. Its walls, which had tilted out of the vertical, began to crack and its floors were no longer horizontal. Doors would swing open and shut of their own accord and the man was distressed to find that the floors and window frames were noticeably sloped.

After lawyers issued proceedings on his behalf under the Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1991, the Upper Tribunal (UT) held the Coal Authority liable to cover the cost of remedial works that would, to the man’s reasonable satisfaction, restore the property to the condition that it was in prior to the subsidence occurring. The Coal Authority argued that the cost of those works should be assessed at £68,086, whereas the man contended for a figure of £954,642.

In ruling on the dispute, the UT found that the subsidence damage, in particular the noticeable tilt, could only feasibly be made good by demolishing and reconstructing the main building. The Coal Authority’s case that such a course would be extravagant was rejected. The man was awarded a £670,000 interim payment, pending precise calculation of the total damages due to him.

White v The Coal Authority.

Rex Cowell