First Minister Responds to Concerns from Rhondda AM About Coal Tip Safety

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The Rhondda AM has received assurances from the First Minister the issue of coal tip safety is being dealt with “as a matter of urgency.”

Leanne Wood wrote to Mark Drakeford twice  in the immediate aftermath of the floods which devastated the Rhondda and caused a major landslide in Tylorstown. Over subsequent days, more landslides were reported in Clydach Vale and Pontygwaith.

In her letter, Ms Wood wrote: ‘I would like to know, in light of all these worrying incidents, is there an emergency programme of works to ensure that people are safe in the short term?

‘Is there a plan to assess sites that we once thought were safe but have now been made vulnerable by the increasing levels of rainfall we are experiencing, no doubt as a result of the climate crisis?

‘I hope you will seriously consider the implications of how our rapidly changing weather systems will impact upon the landscape left behind after our industrial past.’  

In his response, Mr Drakeford said: “On the issue of landslips, I along with the Secretary of State for Wales met representatives from the Coal Authority, Natural Resources Wales and Rhondda Cynon Taf Council yesterday to discuss the safety of coal tips and the actions needed to safeguard communities living in their shadows.

“The ownership and maintenance of coal tips is complex and falls to Natural Resources Wales, local authorities and the Coal Authority.

“Ensuring we have a full picture of all potential sites where there is a risk to communities is our top priority. We are working with the local authorities to understand this and ensure we have a full picture about the current checks and monitoring systems in place as a matter of urgency.”

Ms Wood said: “I am pleased that the issue is being treated with the seriousness and urgency it demands. The site of the landslide in Tylorstown sent chills down the spine of everyone living in the former coalfield areas of the south of Wales.

“Every single coal tip needs to be assessed and, if necessary, made safe. Engineers will need to take into account the adverse weather we have experienced becoming more common in any recommendations for remedial work.

“These coal tips have to be future proofed for the weather we are likely to be seeing more of as a result of the climate emergency. People’s safety must be paramount.

“People must also be reassured so that they know that their homes, schools and communities are safe. It is not acceptable for people to be living under constant threat through a lack of action or communication.”

She added: “I have also asked the First Minister to consider the reintroduction of the Land Reclamation Grant which ended due to Labour Government cutbacks five years ago. I have yet to receive an answer on this – in correspondence or to my questions in the Senedd – but I will keep asking the questions as it could be vital in making former coal tips not only useable, but also safe.    

“In the long term, the return of this grant could bring to residents living in the shadow of a coal tip the peace of mind that has been spoilt by recent events.”

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