The Welsh Government may have refused repair funding for Tylorstown coal tip because there wasn’t a “business case” for profitable land development, a 2014 document suggests.

Tips in Cefnpennar and Craig y Duffryn, both Mountain Ash, may also have been affected by the decision.

The document, a Rhondda Cynon Taf Council report on the progress of stabilisation works at Albion Lower Tip in Cilfynydd was unearthed by local campaigner Phil Thomas.

The report tracks the council’s attempts to improve the stability of the Albion tip following “significant movement” in the late 1980s.

In it, a council officer notes a “lack of Welsh Government funding for future Land Reclamation”.

The National Wales: Land scarring at the site of the 2020 Tylorstown tip collapse (Picture source: Jon Pountney)Land scarring at the site of the 2020 Tylorstown tip collapse (Picture source: Jon Pountney)

“The Welsh Government has traditionally funded reclamation at 100%,” writes Nigel Brennan, then Highways Service Director for RCT Council.

“Welsh Government has informed the council that it is unlikely to fund future reclamation work unless there is a “business case” for it.

“The focus of the business case being on economic outputs such as bringing forward development land.

“There is therefore potential funding available for schemes that have a potential to generate reclaimed land for development such as Cwm Colliery & Tips and Maerdy Colliery.”


Mining industry's 'burial mounds': Welsh coal tips captured by photographer

Welsh coal tip legacy: 'Doesn't anybody care?'

“However, this leaves the other sites, some of which have historical stability issues, without potential funding and an increased future liability for the Council,” he concludes.

The report ends with a table of council-owned coal tip sites identified as requiring repairs or other reclamation works.

Among the list is a tip in the Tylorstown and Llanwonno area, which is labelled “tip with stability issues – no funding”.

It is unclear whether this tip is the same one that collapsed in Tylorstown just under six years later in early 2020, following Storm Dennis.

The National Wales: "Old Smokey" coal tip, Llanwonno (Picture source: Jon Pountney)"Old Smokey" coal tip, Llanwonno (Picture source: Jon Pountney)

“I’m struggling to find any words really,” Phil Thomas, who lives below a coal tip in Ynyshir, said.

“They knew about it at least 6 years earlier, and probably more.

“What kind of governance is that? Who decides what gets funding?

“These are only the RCT-owned tips ‘on the list’ of consideration – [what about] the ones not ‘on the list’?

“The privately-owned ones don’t even feature.”

Phil, who has been campaigning for the removal of coal tips in south Wales since that collapse two years ago, worries that the location of some tips on privately-owned land will allow authorities to distance themselves from responsibility, and could mean potential safety risks have been missed.

The National has previously reported that councils admit having “no power” under existing laws to make landowners carry out necessary safety works, and tip safety inspections are often limited to a basic visual check and a checklist printed on two sides of paper.

“Not that it matters,” Mr Thomas added.

“They weren’t funded in good time to stop a disaster - what if dog walkers, runners, or cyclists were out on the cycle and footpath below the [Tylorstown] tip when it slid?”

There are thought to be 75 "higher risk" tips in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

In its draft 2022-2023 budget published last month, the Welsh Government pledged an additional £4.5million in funding, a capital investment of £44.4m overall, for “essential maintenance works” to Welsh coal tips, and to cover the cost of developing a “future reclamation programme”.

It’s estimated that the task of dealing with all of Wales’s disused coal tips will cost between £500-600m in total, and Westminster has refused to contribute additional funds.

A review of coal tip legislation by the Law Commission is ongoing.

Both RCT Council and the Welsh Government have been approached for comment.

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