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Council backs call for coal tip safety funding

Bridgend County Borough Council is supporting calls from Welsh Government for the forthcoming national spending review to include long-term funding for making coal tips safe all across Wales.

With some estimates suggesting that up to £600m could be needed over the next 10 to 15 years to complete this work and with 40 per cent of the country’s coal tips located within Wales, Finance and Local Government Minister Rebecca Evans has asked UK Government to allocate funding to deal with the pre-devolution legacy of coal mining.

She said: “The UK Government has a legal and moral responsibility to work with the Welsh Government to address this issue and fund these long-term costs.

“There is an opportunity for us to work together in the coming years to tackle the climate and nature crisis we face, and this year’s spending review is the chance to find that common ground and to leave a positive, fairer and lasting legacy for former mining areas in Wales.”

In Bridgend County Borough, residents have received assurances that former industrial sites have already been inspected and are being monitored, but only minor issues have been identified.

Following the impact of Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis in 2020, the council has been working closely alongside the Coal Tip Safety Taskforce as part of their assessment of more than 2,000 former Welsh mining sites.

At each site, ground inspections have taken place to identify whether any works may be necessary, and a set of nationally agreed ‘risk status’ criteria has been applied to evaluate what the likely impact would be in the event of a land slip, collapse or any other loss of structural integrity.

This has resulted in sites being classed within A, B, C or D categories, with D noting locations where any disruption would have the most impact – for example, because they might be situated alongside a public highway.

The taskforce has confirmed that while the majority of Welsh coal tips are now in private ownership, others remain under the management of the Coal Authority, Natural Resources Wales and local councils.

Within Bridgend County Borough, 118 former tips have been identified. Of these, 31 have been classed as either C or D.

I want to stress that the categories do not indicate how safe or how dangerous a site may or may not be, but rather they reflect the seriousness of any likely impact that would follow in the event of a collapse, slide or slip. A former mining site that is located in a remote part of the county borough, well away from any roads or other infrastructure, is unlikely to have a significant impact if its structural integrity ever became an issue. But a site adjacent to, for example, the main road heading into a town would score considerably higher as any slippage there might cause that route to become blocked.

While the new classification system has been in place since the storms of 2020 caused significant problems in neighbouring areas, it was pre-empted by a local system of monitoring which has historically enabled us to manage tips within Bridgend County Borough. As a result, we have a long-established regime in place for carrying out regular inspections alongside experts from the Coal Authority. Thankfully, this system has to date identified only minor maintenance issues, such as ensuring that vegetation is removed from watercourses or that minor structural works are undertaken, and no significant issues have been found which require further or urgent attention.

Residents can be assured that Bridgend County Borough Council is continuing to work alongside Welsh Government, the Coal Authority, Natural Resources Wales and the Coal Tip Safety Taskforce to monitor all local sites, and to ensure that they remain safe. We support the call for UK Government to work closely with Welsh Government, and to allocate the funding necessary for ensuring that former coal tips located all across Wales remain safe for the future.

Councillor Stuart Baldwin, Cabinet Member for Communities

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