Julie James MS, Minister for Climate Change
I am pleased to launch our White Paper consultation, which confirms our proposals for a new ‘Coal Tip Safety’ regime for Wales. This is a significant step towards delivering the Programme for Government commitment to introduce legislation to deal with the legacy of centuries of mining and ensure coal tip safety for our communities and the environment.
In 2020, the then Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs invited the Law Commission to review the existing legislative framework relating to coal tips in Wales. The Law Commission’s report, “Regulating Coal Tip Safety in Wales (external link)” was published on 24 March following a comprehensive review and consultation. The Law Commission’s work confirmed the Welsh Government’s concerns that the current law is no longer effective nor fit-for-purpose for the safe management of disused coal tips. The review demonstrated that a new future-proofed regime is needed to help address the increased risks posed by climate change. The Law Commission’s findings have provided valuable evidence which, combined with our own analysis, has helped to shape our own proposals outlined in the White Paper I am announcing today.
Our proposals have been carefully designed to safeguard our communities, protect Wales’ critical infrastructure and safeguard the environment by introducing a proportionate and enforceable approach for the monitoring and management of tips in Wales, to help reduce the likelihood of further slippages. The White Paper contains a number of proposed measures to achieve this.
Firstly, we are proposing the establishment of a new supervisory authority to oversee the new regime, which will ensure management arrangements are in place for the highest-category tips, and to compile and maintain a new national asset register.
We are also proposing a new national approach to the categorisation of tips, which will be underpinned by a tailored hazard assessment for each site to account fully for the hazards a tip might pose to communities, property, infrastructure or the environment. We propose that the supervisory authority would lead on arranging these hazard assessments and the associated management plans, which would be proportionate to the hazard posed.
On monitoring of sites, we are proposing a two-tier national approach with different and prescribed monitoring and management requirements based on the category of each tip. Proportionality and cost-effectiveness have been guiding principles in designing our approach. In terms of statutory tip management requirements, we are proposing the new supervisory authority would ensure management arrangements are in place for the highest category tips and the introduction of maintenance agreements for the lower category sites.
A major shortfall in the existing legislation is the complete lack of enforcement powers. We are seeking to address this through proposals to enable rights of access where these are needed. These powers would enable the supervisory authority to ensure compliance with the new legislation but also, if necessary, to carry out maintenance or remedial works. The White Paper also seeks views on the role of civil sanctions and the type of activities for which these might be used.
The consultation will close on 4 August and I would like to invite everyone who has a view to consider our proposals. During the consultation period the Coal Tip Safety Unit will be holding engagement events and I would encourage everyone with an interest to get involved by registering here (external link). I look forward to hearing your views on our proposals to help inform the development of new primary legislation, which will introduced during this Senedd.