First Minister calls summit after Wattstown coal tip landslide

Coal tip above Duffryn in the Afan valley. © Copyright Jeremy Bolwell (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The First Minister of Wales yesterday convened a coal tip safety summit following a landslip at Wattstown on Saturday after heavy rainfall in the area.

The summit was briefed about the immediate response to the Wattstown landslip. Rhondda Cynon Taf Council engineers and Coal Authority inspectors are monitoring the site closely.

There is a risk of further minor movement at the site but there is no risk to public safety, the Wesh Government said. People are being warned to stay away from the immediate area.

“The landslip at Wattstown at the weekend highlights the importance of inspection, maintenance and remediation and the work of the taskforce the Secretary of State for Wales and I established following the Tylorstown landslide in February,” the First Minister said.

“Safeguarding our communities is our priority. The taskforce has made solid progress this year but we must continue to focus on this vital work.

“The Welsh Government will work with local authorities, the Coal Authority and other partners, so people living near coal tips feel safe and secure. We will also continue to press the UK Government to ensure the long-term funding is available to maintain and remediate these sites.”

 

‘Informed’

Councillor Andrew Morgan, leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and leader of the Welsh Local Government Association, said it was vitally important that coal tips are closely monitored and inspected regularly.

“Local authorities are working in partnership with UK Government, Welsh Government, the Coal Authority and Natural Resources Wales to ensure we have a comprehensive picture of the condition of tips and the works required to keep them safe,” he said.

“With increased intensity of rainfall and the extreme weather events we are experiencing, it is vitally important we continually evaluate and minimise the level of risk at these sites. Local authorities with tips are working proactively with our partners to develop plans to deal with tips that pose the greatest risks, as part of an ongoing programme of works.

“Residents will be kept informed and we would ask they take heed of warnings to keep well away from sites when work is being undertaken.”

The summit also discussed the wider rolling programme of ground checks undertaken by the Coal Authority and local authorities and the wider work of the coal tip safety taskforce, which was set up by the First Minister earlier this year.

The taskforce has considered the status of 2,000-plus coal spoil heaps in Wales and put in place a strategic programme to address gaps in the current legislative framework, the Welsh Government said. This includes a review being undertaken by the Law Commission.

Welsh Government officials are working with local authorities and the Coal Authority on a maintenance programme to enable the long-term remediation of sites.

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans has secured funding to repair the Tylorstown slip and other sites this year but the UK Treasury has not yet confirmed the funding for the full remediation of coal tip legacy risks.

A technical briefing for Members of the Senedd and MPs will be scheduled early next year.

People can report any concerns about coal spoil tips or get safety advice from the Coal Authority’s 24/7 helpline on 0800 021 9230 or via tips@coal.gov.uk

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