THE first minister has called on the UK Government to cough up cash to help make Wales’ high-risk disused coal tips safe.
Hefin David asked Mark Drakeford for an update on measures to safely restore coal tips during first minister’s questions on Tuesday November 7.
Dr David told the Senedd that three council-owned tips in his Caerphilly constituency are categorised as the highest risk.
“They’re not at risk of any imminent danger,” he stressed. “But they do need frequent inspection and the local authority has assured me that’s happening.”
The Labour backbencher asked how Welsh Government plans for a disused tip safety bill will support councils to remediate and restore at-risk coal tips.
Mark Drakeford told Senedd members that 40% of all disused coal tips in the UK are in Wales, with more than 2,500 due to the country’s industrial heritage.
Confirming that legislation will be brought forward next year, the first minister said: “The bill will set up a world-first new system of oversight of disused tips here in Wales, making the system fit for an era of climate change.
“Alongside that, and not dependent upon the bill itself, we go on investing £44 million provided to local authorities for the maintenance and remediation of coal tips.”
‘Living in fear’
Natasha Asghar, for the Conservatives, told the chamber that people near coal tips have been living in fear since a landslip in Tylorstown during a storm in 2020.
The South Wales East MS said the Welsh Government has received millions of pounds from the UK Government.
Prof Drakeford disputed the claim, saying: “The Welsh Government has not received millions of pounds for the UK Government for remediation – nothing of the sort.
“In fact, we remain in discussions with the UK Government about the contribution that we believe should rightly come to Wales for what is a legacy industry
“The difficulties that we are having to put right well predate devolution….
“We’ve made no progress at all with the UK Government with that argument so far, but we certainly continue to make it.”
Delyth Jewell, the Plaid Cymru MS for South Wales East, said the psychological toll of worrying about tips slipping in heavy rain weighs heavily on many people.
The party’s shadow minister for climate change and deputy leader said: “These coal tips are a legacy of the negligence and disdain of Westminster governments for our valleys – they need to pay to clear them.”
Prof Drakeford agreed, saying: “There is an obligation on the UK Government to assist in putting right the wrongs of the past.
“We don’t expect them to do it alone; the Welsh Government is already, as I said, making available £44.4m for these purposes.
“What we look to the Treasury to agree is a long-term programme, funded over a decade.
“We’re not expecting huge amounts of money in any one year, but, cumulatively, over a decade, we could begin with those tips where the risk is greatest.”
Asked by Dr David about the role of private companies, which may be able to remediate tips at a lower cost, Prof Drakeford said ministers do not have any objection.
He said private companies will need to follow the same processes as other organisations seeking to carry out remediation work, such as making a planning application.