Not in the public interest to publish? The Welsh Government has categorised each coal tip so why has the list of dangerous coal tips not been published?
Following a comment by Andrew Morgan leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council on May 13 2021 when he was asked a question on social media, “People need to see the report on the 64 dodgy coal tips in RCT. It’s in the public interest for authorities to share this information” in response to that question Mr. Morgan wrote, “This information will be published next month with a comprehensive list across wales with info and data from other agencies like Coal Authority and Welsh Government”.
Following on from the council leaders reply I emailed Lisa Pinney chef Executive of the Coal Authority in June asking when the list of dangerous coal tips was to be published to be informed by the Coal Authority “Please be advised that Welsh Government are the lead authority on this and we have been asked to signpost any requests in the first instance to the Welsh Government Taskforce – contact email CoalSpoilTips@gov.wales.”
On the 28th June 2021, AberdareOnline emailed Lesley Griffiths MS Minister for Rural Affairs
Dear Ms Griffiths,
Ref: A list of the dangerous South Wales Coal Tips
We were informed veer social media by the leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council that a full list of South Wales Coal Tips would be published this month and I assume the classification of each tip with potential risk to public safety would be included in that list.
Having written comprehensively to the Coal Authority with reference to the above to be informed by them,
“Please be advised that Welsh Government are the lead authority on this and we have been asked to signpost any requests in the first instance to the Welsh Government Taskforce”
Provisional figures indicate that there are 2,144 identified coal tips in Wales. Just over
70% of tips, 1,574 in total, are on private land or of unknown ownership. Local
Authorities own 354 tips (17%), and 183 are managed by Natural Resources Wales
(NRW) (9%). The Coal Authority owns 33 tips (2%)
When you publish the list of welsh coal tips will the owners of the tips be included in your publication?
Will you categorize and prioritize the list of coal tips that need immediate attention because of the potential dangers?
Have the Welsh Government made provision in the next 5 years to deal with the cost of remedial work on potential high-risk coal tips?
The response I received below from Samantha Thomas Head of Coal Tip Safety Operations
Thank you for your email of 28 June to the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths MS on the subject of coal tips. The Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MS is responsible for this policy area. I have been asked to reply.
The safety of our communities is paramount to the Welsh Government and we are continuing to work at pace to address coal tip safety with a wide range of experts and partners, including the Coal Authority. This programme of work includes inspection and maintenance of coal tips, and also includes developing new legislation and policy.
It is our intention to publish information on disused coal tips in Wales, however, details of individual ownership will not be published. The collation and quality assurance of the data remains an ongoing exercise and therefore, a publication date is yet to be confirmed.
Each disused coal tip has been categorised using the current interim categorisation approach. The Coal Authority or relevant local authority inspect all tips in the higher-risk categories, with inspections scheduled on a regular basis. Regular inspections help to identify any signs of tip movement and any maintenance work required.
Local authorities carry out any maintenance work identified by the inspections, and funding is available to support the maintenance programme.
In response to your question about long-term funding, coal tips are a legacy of Wales’ industrial history, which pre-dates devolution. The long-term reclamation programme will require a comprehensive funding package. The Welsh Government will continue discussions with the UK Government on how these legacy issues will be funded.
You may already be aware the Law Commission recently launched a consultation on Regulating Coal Tip Safety in Wales. The Welsh Ministers asked the Law Commission of England and Wales to review current legislation on disused coal tips as the current law, the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act 1969, dates back to when there was an active coal industry
and is not effective at managing the safety of disused coal tips in a holistic way
Head of Coal Tip Safety Operations
You will note from the response that the Welsh Government has already categorized the coal tips, categorize meaning, “place in a particular class or group.” So why has the Welsh Government not published the list? Using the excuse for not providing the list to the Welsh Public that “data remains an ongoing exercise” data will always be ongoing if a coal tip is found to be unstable.
Can the Welsh Government give assurance there will not be further landslides from coal tips? If not, publish the list of where the dangers are, the public has a right to know, is it not in the public interest to know if you have a dangerous disused coal tip in your neighborhood?
Below is a response to the Welsh Government email to me, no reply to date.
21st July 2021
Ref: Publication of a list of the dangerous South Wales Coal Tips
I thank you for your response to my email addressed to Lesley Griffiths MS
Minister for Rural Affairs, you respond with “It is our intention to publish information on disused coal tips in Wales,” this was evident if we are to believe the publication by Andrew Morgan leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council who informed the public on May 13, 2021, the list is forthcoming.
Andrew Morgan May 13 2021 “This information will be published next month with a comprehensive list across wales with info and data from other agencies like Coal Authority and Welsh Government”
Is Mr. Morgan leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council in the habit of misinforming the public?
You write, “Each disused coal tip has been categorised using the current interim categorization approach. The Coal Authority or relevant local authority inspect all tips in the higher-risk categories, with inspections scheduled on a regular basis. Regular inspections help to identify any signs of tip movement and any maintenance work required.”
Therefore in that statement, each disused coal tip has been categorised, i.e. Place in a particular class or groups consequently you already know of each coal tip if a coal tip is stable or volatile and a danger to the public
You write, “The safety of our communities is paramount to the Welsh Government and we are continuing to work at pace to address coal tip safety with a wide range of experts and partners, including the Coal Authority.”
If safety were paramount to communities as you inform, would it not be more beneficial to publish the list of dangerous coal tips to make the public more aware of any of the risks involved? I don’t think anyone wants another disaster like Aberfan where the authorities were again aware of the risks to the coal tips that caused that tragedy but preferred to do nothing resulting in a considerable loss of life.
I would be the first to criticize Andrew Morgan but he must have had the information from the Welsh Government to make a bold statement on public safety knowing the public is concerned about the danger of old coal tips. You cannot predict when the next major storm event is coming no one was prepared for the last one that is evident by the volume of new drainage work being undertaken work that should have been done years previously.
It appears you intend keeping the public in the dark by not publishing the information you already have as I have explained.
Your response to S Jonesunder a FOI request “To that end, I do not think it is reasonable in the circumstances or in the public interest, to release this information prematurely. I am satisfied therefore that the balance of the public interest falls in favour of withholding the information.”
The National Coal Board keeping information away from the public was the route cause of the Aberfan disaster in which killed 116 children in 1966, I remember hearing that landslide on that day a sound I will never forget.
I await your response or Lesley Griffiths MS Minister for Rural Affairs who is ultimately responsible along with the Welsh Government.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/473325187382852 Clear South Wales Coal Tips