Mark Drakeford calls for coal tip safety funding as new data shows true scale of Wales’ challenge

It is estimated 40 percent of all the UK's coal tips are in Wales and around one in seven are classed as high risk

New data showing the true extent of Wales’ coal tip challenge has been published, providing a breakdown of the 2,456 identified tips across the country. 

The data sees sites categorised by risk and local authority area for the first time. 

It shows that Neath Port Talbot has the greatest number of sites at 607 but that Rhondda Cynon Taf has the most sites classified as being at higher risk at 75.

Higher risk sites are recognised as posing a potential risk to safety - not that there is an imminent or immediate threat – meaning the need for more frequent inspections.

The publication comes ahead of Tuesday’s Coal Tip Safety Summit, where attendees will discuss the progress of the Coal Tip Safety Task Force, including data mapping and ongoing maintenance and inspection work.

Coal tips requiring attention by local authority

Local Authority | Total number of sites | Number of high risk sites

Neath Port Talbot | 607 | 39

Rhondda Cynon Taf | 303 | 75

Wrexham | 215 | 3

Caerphilly | 205 | 51

Swansea | 203 | 5

Torfaen | 175 | 35

Carmarthenshire | 170 | 0

Blaenau Gwent | 128 | 14

Merthyr Tydfill | 120 | 59

Bridgend | 118 | 31

Flintshire | 65 | 0

Pembrokeshire | 61 | 1

Powys | 28 | 1

Monmouthshire | 27 | 12

Cardiff | 22 | 1

Isle of Anglesey | 8 | 0

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Funding for the long-term reclamation of coal tips will also be discussed at the summit.

Repurposing, reclamation and remediation of disused coal tips to deal with the legacy of the pre-devolution mining industry is estimated to cost at least £500m to £600m over the next decade and a half. 

The Welsh Government continues to stress the need for this investment to be 'front loaded' in the coming years, with rainfall and temperatures increasing.

Ahead of Wednesday’s UK Government spending review, First Minister Mark Drakeford has made a fresh call for the UK Government to invest in coal tip safety and ‘help communities who have already given so much’.

Mr Drakeford said: “We recognise how concerning living in the shadow of a coal tip can be for communities and we want to reassure local residents that a lot of work is being done to ensure they are safe.

“These sites pre-date devolution. Our funding settlement does not recognise the substantial, long-term costs of remediating and repairing these sites. 

“Tomorrow’s spending review is an opportunity for the UK Government to use its financial powers to help communities who’ve given so much to Wales and the United Kingdom during the coal-mining years. 

“A package of investment to remediate these sites will show how our two governments can work together for the communities we serve.”

The UK Government's previous position is that coal tip safety is a responsibility of the Welsh Government and not an issue "the UK Government would expect to provide additional funding for".

Rhondda Cynon Taf council leader Andrew Morgan, who also leads the Welsh Local Government Association, said: “This data shows that substantial long-term investment is needed if we are to make sure that necessary repair work is carried out and to ensure the safety of these sites across Wales.

“I am pleased that both the UK Government and Welsh Government are taking the issue seriously and have set up the Coal Tip Safety Task Force to jointly map out the work needed.

“However, despite a cross-party joint letter endorsed by all of the 22 council leaders in Wales requesting UK Government funding, it is disappointing that the UK Government - despite some initial financial support - has so far refused to commit to an ongoing programme of funding which is going to be needed to deal with this legacy issue which pre-dates devolution. 

“The Spending Review gives a chance for the UK Government to give some much-needed reassurance to communities that are still living in the shadow of their industrial legacy.”

The Welsh Conservatives have called on the Welsh Government to publish more localised data to ensure communities know the precise location of sites.

Janet Finch-Saunders said: “It’s vital Labour ministers provide more detail on the locations of these sites and urgently announce an action plan to put local communities worries at ease.

“However, all we have seen so far is Labour ministers blaming others. They’ve had ample opportunities to protect people and communities by making these coal tips safe, but as ever, they’ve chosen not to act, instead they’ve opted to pass responsibility. 

“In 2010, we saw the Environment Agency produce Reservoir Flood Maps for large raised reservoirs at a national scale across England and Wales.

"Those maps are used to inform everyone on emergency planning, reservoir risk designation, spatial planning and community awareness.

“So, whilst I welcome the council-by-council breakdown, the local communities around these coal tips deserve to know the precise locations and any potential risk they may cause.” 

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