Welsh Government will miss Cefn Coed Colliery rebuild deadline as costs spiral

The dismantled upcast headframe at Cefn Coed (left) and the downcast prior to the work (right)

Campaigners have criticised delays to the project to restore the historic winding towers at the Cefn Coed Colliery Museum near Neath.

The Welsh Government, which owns the site, began to dismantle the listed structures on safety grounds in November/December 2016.

In May that year, Neath Port Talbot Council granted planning permission for the project, on the condition that the towers were reinstated within two and three years respectively.

The dismantled headframes remain at the site awaiting refurbishment

With the deadline for re-erecting the first headframe rapidly approaching, the Welsh Government now admits that the project is years behind schedule, with no works contractor in place, and projected costs rising to £1.3 million.

Cefn Coed Colliery prior to closure in the 1960s

The headframes date from the 1920s, and were in operation until Cefn Coed Colliery's closure in 1968.

One of the shafts continued in use until 1990 to ventilate and access the nearby Blaenant Colliery.

As far as the headgear themselves are concerned, they add something to this valley. It is a very picturesque spot.

They've chopped them down, and left them on site to rust for two years, and that wasn't in the planning conditions, and that wasn't what in the planning application that they submitted. I am very concerned for the site.

– Phil Cullen, former Blaenant Colliery worker
The Cefn Coed upcast shaft was retained to access Blaenant Colliery

Despite surveys of the headframes in 2013 and 2015, the Welsh Government says further examination of the structures after dismantling revealed more problems.

Detailed surveys of the structures undertaken since the dismantling works identified the extent of deterioration to be far greater and the nature of the required restoration work to be more complex than was previously anticipated. As a result, the surveys took much longer than expected to complete.

The total cost of the project is estimated at £1.30m which includes works undertaken to date. The procurement exercise to appoint a Works Contractor is currently underway so this estimate may vary following the competitive tender process.

– Welsh Government spokesperson
Campaigners fear leaving the dismantled structures open to the elements will cause further deterioration

The Welsh Government has now formally applied to Neath Port Talbot Council to extend the amount of time it has to carry out the work.

The completion dates for reinstating the headframes are now set for mid-2020 and 2021.

This is hugely disappointing. People were made promises two, two and a half years ago that these towers would be back up, restoring the magnificence of the site, and it's not particularly clear why that's not happened.

If this is a case that surveys were done, and they were incomplete or incorrect, there are questions to be answered there, and if the costs have gone up, as a result of that, then we need to know about that as well.

– Suzy Davies AM, Conservative, South Wales West

The Welsh Government told ITV Wales a number of firms have tendered for the contract to carry out the work, and that it expects to make a decision in November.

Campaigners still worry they'll have a long wait before the headframes tower over the valley again.