FIRST Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford yesterday convened the third summit on coal tip safety in Wales.
The First Minister called for the meeting following a landslip at Wattstown on December 19, after heavy rainfall in the area.
Welsh Government Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths and Minister for Housing and Local Government Julie James attended the summit, together with UK Government Under-Secretary of State for Wales David Davies; local authority leaders from former-coal mining communities, including Rhondda Cynon Taf Council leader Andrew Morgan, and representatives from the Coal Authority and Natural Resources Wales.
The summit was briefed about the immediate response to the Wattstown landslip. Rhondda Cynon Taf Council engineers and Coal Authority inspectors responded quickly to the incident and are monitoring the site closely.
There is a risk of further minor movement at the site but there is no risk to public safety. People are being warned to stay away from the immediate area.
The Welsh Government has commissioned work to develop options for the site and will continue to support the council and the Coal Authority.
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 brought greater clarity on the status of the 2,000-plus coal spoil heaps in Wales and put in place a strategic programme to address gaps in the current legislative framework. 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.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
“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.
“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.”
Councillor Andrew Morgan, leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and leader of the Welsh Local Government Association, said:
“Given the sensitivity around coal tips, it is vitally important they 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.
“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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org