Council reveals for the first time the location of all the most dangerous coal tips it owns

A council in Wales has revealed its most at risk coal tips following investigations.

Across Wales there are more than 2,000 disused coal tips which pose risks of landslides.

In February last year thousands of tonnes of debris slid down the side of the valley from the Llanwonno top in Tylerstown, leaving those living below in fear.

Read more: Welsh Government refuses to list the most dangerous coal tips in Wales

Since the Tylerstown slip the Welsh Government has been working with the Coal Authority, councils, and Natural Resources Wales to identify all disused coal tips across the country.

Investigations found that of the 2,456 tips a total of 327 of them are classified as higher risk, meaning category C or the more at risk category D.

Caerphilly borough council has revealed the locations of the category D coal tips under its ownership while there are another three locations which are not under the council’s direct control.

The tips most at risk of landslide are Deri, Bedwas Colliery central south in Trethomas, Bedwas Colliery central north, and Bedwas Colliery north.

Any of those which are categorised as the higher potential risk in categories C and D does not mean an imminent risk, the Welsh Government said, but the categorisation reflects the frequency of inspection required to monitor the tips’ stability.

It is one of the few councils in Wales to release this information publicly. Merthyr council in 2018 told WalesOnline its Category D tips were Incline Top, Pendarren; Pan-y-Ffyndd, Penyard; Graig Pit, Lower Pentrebach; Nant yr Odyn, Pentrebach; Ynysfach and Bedlinog. Neath has just one at Eaglesbush Colliery. Bridgend, RCT and other councils will not release the data. None of the authorities will provide details of the location of high-risk tips not in public ownership.

The Coal Authority publishes data on the tips it owns, although it classifies them differently. The most at risk are Tydraw 468 and Tydraw 221, Glenrhondda 469 and Glenrhondda 220 – all in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Natural Resources Wales only owns one high risk tip at Trehehebert.

A spokesman for Caerphilly borough council (CCBC) said that the council was monitoring its four Category D tips every month.

“There are also nine class C tips in authority ownership and these are inspected on a six-monthly basis,” they said.

“There are no current safety concerns with any of the authority-owned tips within Caerphilly county borough.

“There are a total of 109 privately-owned tips in Caerphilly county borough and landowners have a duty to ensure their safety under the Tips Act 1969.

“CCBC officers form a key part of the Welsh Government-led Coal Tip Safety Technical Advisory Group, established to support the review of the Tips Act 1969 in partnership with the Law Commission.

“The Coal Authority on behalf of the Welsh Government are currently undertaking inspections of all the higher-risk category C and D privately-owned tips to ensure there are no urgent works that need to be addressed.”

As part of checks a programme of technology trials, sensor equipment, and earth observation techniques have been used at more than 70 higher-risk coal tip sites across Wales. Further techniques are being considered for implementation on selected sites before the upcoming winter looking at additional remote sensing and real-time telemetric monitoring systems. Councils have also been given money to buy drones to use as part of their inspection and management regime.

Climate change minister Julie James told BBC Wales Live on Wednesday that the Welsh Government had been testing technology to issue landslide alerts via a mobile app. Ms James said she hoped the early warning system would never have to be used but it was important that people didn’t “live in fear” of sudden landslips.

The Welsh Government has said it will introduce legislation in this Senedd term to address long-term safety.

They also recently said it wanted the UK Government to give money to make coal tips safe, saying the tips were created before devolution and so the UK Government should “share responsibility”, with the bill estimated to be at least £500m to £600m over the next 10 to 15 years.

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