'Angry' Skewen flood victims considering legal action in compensation bid

  • Watch the report with Swansea Correspondent Dean Thomas-Welch

Flood-hit residents in the Neath Port Talbot village of Skewen say they are considering taking legal action in a bid for compensation.

Dozens of people were forced to leave their homes last month when floodwater engulfed the community.

Houses, gardens and possessions were left destroyed - but residents say their battle is only just beginning, because no one will take responsibility for the disaster.

The flood is thought to have been caused by an underground drainage route that became blocked. Over time, water backed up and filled a disused mine shaft under a road in the village.

Heavy rain from Storm Christoph added to the pressure and meant the water eventually burst out of the ground. The shaft itself subsequently collapsed, presenting a further problem.

Those affected say the Coal Authority, which owns the mine workings and reports to the UK Government, will not take liability for the true cost of the damage.

Instead it has offered each affected property a £500 garden repair grant, which residents have described as an "insult".

Some insurance policies won't cover the full losses, while other residents don't have insurance in place for such an event.

The Coal Authority has previously said it does not have legal liability for flooding from mine water.

A major incident was declared as dozens of residents were forced out of their homes

Phil Thomas represents a newly-formed residents group, whose members say they are willing to take legal action to get what they feel is owed.

His house was badly hit by the flooding, with everything on the ground floor destroyed and a bill amounting to thousands of pounds.

"The responsibility for this is not being accepted by the Coal Authority," said Mr Thomas.

"We want them to do the right thing - there's a moral obligation here. Five hundred pounds to clear our gardens? It's an insult.

"To some extent, we will all be living with the effects of this for the rest of our lives.

"We are not going to go quietly into the night - as I think Dylan Thomas once said - we will pursue this until the absolute bitter end."

Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon, also said there is a "moral responsibility" to compensate the residents.

"The community is incredibly strong and they've behaved with real dignity," he said.

"But there's also a lot of anger, because there is a feeling that the Coal Authority and the British Government have not done enough to show that they are liable and responsible for what has taken place.

"I think what people want to see now is a guarantee that they will be compensated for the losses that are not covered by their own insurance."

Some people's repair bills are running into thousands of pounds as a result of the flood damage

Lisa Pinney, chief executive at the Coal Authority, said: “Every home flooded, from any cause, is a tragedy. Our sympathy remains with all those affected by this incident.

“Our focus continues to be on listening to residents and providing practical support wherever possible, and working with partners such as Neath Port Talbot Council, to help those affected move forwards and recover their homes from the flood.

“The new temporary access road at Goshen Park has allowed the majority of families access back to their homes to live, or to progress the recovery work that will enable them to move back in time.

"We can now begin the permanent remediation works to repair the mineshaft and build a permanent solution for the mine water. The final services have been relocated this week so that full excavation around the affected mineshaft can begin. Clean-up work is progressing well and we have provided extra services, such as private drain clearance, at the request of residents.

“The Coal Authority is continuing to do all that it is able to do to support residents, aid the recovery of flooded homes and to put a permanent mine water management scheme in place to provide peace of mind.”

Read more: