The Welsh Government has welcomed the Law Commission’s recommendations to improve coal tip safety in Wales, saying they will help to shape a new law to ensure people living and working near tips feel safe and secure.
The independent body’s report, which was published last week, highlights the significant gaps in existing legislation in relation to the management, monitoring and oversight of disused tips.
It has put forward 36 recommendations for improvement – including the creation of a new supervisory authority.
Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters, said:
The safety of communities living in the shadow of these tips has always been our priority.
We have provided financial support to enable local authorities to repair and maintain coal tips.
And we have dedicated a further £44.4m over the next three years so this vital work can continue.
As part of the Welsh Government’s commitment to introduce legislation to improve coal tip safety in this Senedd term, the Climate Change Minister Julie James will publish the Coal Tip Safety (Wales) White Paper in early May.
The Deputy Minister said this will be a chance to seek the public’s views on these plans, which will provide a “consistent approach to tip management, monitoring and oversight”.
There are almost 2,500 disused coal tips across Wales – 327 of these are in the higher-rated category and more are still being identified. With a high percentage of tips located on private land, data protection issues are still being addressed before a full list of their locations can be made public.
In areas where there are higher-rated tips, the information has already been shared with local authorities and Local Resilience Forums to help with the creation of emergency plans.
The Welsh Government is continuing to fund the Coal Authority to carry out inspections together with local authorities and is working with partners, including the UK’s space industry to test world-first technologies to provide information on ground movement and water regimes.
The Welsh Government is also engaging with the research sector through Environment Platform Wales to gather the best possible evidence about how climate change could impact long-term tip stability.
Given the long-term challenges posed by climate change to coal tips, the Welsh Government has repeated its calls for the UK
Government to provide financial support for a reclamation and remediation programme.
Mr Waters, added:
The Welsh Government funding settlement does not reflect the disproportionate costs of addressing the UK’s coal-mining legacy.
It is wholly unfair and, frankly, untenable for Westminster to continue to argue that Welsh communities shoulder these costs.