Vaughan Gething to fight for action on coal tips as first minister
Welsh Labour leadership candidate Vaughan Gething has pledged to do everything in his power to finally tackle the scourge of unsafe coal tips if he becomes First Minister.
There are nearly 2,500 disused coal tips across Wales, overwhelmingly in the South Wales Valleys. One in seven coal tips in Wales are classified as category D, a high risk tip rating.
Experts warn they can become unstable during intense rainfall – which is more likely because of the increasing frequency and intensity of storms fuelled by climate change.
Nearly 58 years after the Aberfan disaster, a totemic moment in Wales’ history in which 116 children and 28 adults were killed when a colliery tip slid down a mountain and engulfed Pantglas Junior School and a row of houses, some coal tips are still yet to be removed.
While the Welsh Government has been pushing for action and is ready to legislate on this issue, the Tory UK Government has so far refused to fund the long-term costs – washing its hands of the responsibility to clean up after our shared industrial past.
Outlining his manifesto at Coleg Cambria, Wrexham, Mr Gething vowed to take action if he succeeds Mark Drakeford as FM.
Speaking before the manifesto launch, he said: “No one should have to live with the entirely preventable fear and anxiety that these tips cause for families in coalfield communities. This issue should be tackled as a matter of urgency.
“It is indefensible for the Tories to argue that this is not a burden to be shared by the UK community as a whole.”
In what he calls his blueprint for power, Mr Gething says: “I would do all I can to ensure the UK Government works with us – especially if we have a constructive Labour administration in Westminster – to bring about overdue action on unsafe coal tips, which are only likely to be made more dangerous by more frequent and intense storms.”
The pledge comes amid a host of promises Mr Gething unveiled focused on protecting Wales’ environment – one of the jewels in the country’s crown and loved by residents and tourists alike.
Plans include bolstering flood and coastal erosion protections and beefing-up penalties for breaches of environmental laws, including river pollution.
“Wales has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, from coastlines to mountain ranges, enjoyed and cared for by people across the country,” says Mr Gething’s manifesto.
“A Welsh Labour Government with my leadership would strengthen enforcement action to protect our environment, starting with the creation of a fully-functioning environmental governance body, filling the gap left post-Brexit.
“The pollution of our rivers and watercourses has been one of the great scandals of the last 14 years of Tory rule, and we would introduce stricter penalties for those who break environmental rules.
“We would also invest to protect communities from flooding, coastal erosion and other impacts of the climate emergency.”
Gething’s candidacy for Welsh Labour leader has been backed by the GMB, Unite, Unison, Usdaw, CWU and Community unions, in addition to a host of MSs, MPs and Constituency Labour Parties, and a majority of Labour Group leaders on local councils across Wales.
The ballot of Labour members to elect a new Welsh leader opens on Friday, February 16 and closes on Thursday, March 14. The winner will be announced on Saturday, March 16.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.