Plaid Cymru has called on the Welsh Government to make the location of high-risk coal tips public.

The demand comes after Climate Minister Julie James said that communities would not yet be told in order to avoid "frightening people unnecessarily".

Speaking to The National this week, James added that the government did not want to "set any hares running" or to have Valleys residents feeling the need to sell up and move.

Delyth Jewell, Plaid Cymru's climate spokesperson, said: “With more than 300 coal tips in Wales already being classed as high risk, keeping this information a secret from the public is not going to stop people feeling worried."

Branding the coal tips "next-door nightmares", the South Wales East MS said that the fears of communities living in the shadow of coal tips had already been sparked following the 2020 Tylorstown tip collapse, which saw 60,000 tonnes of spoil slide into the valley below.

“The cost of decades of inaction is already taking a toll on the psychological wellbeing of too many communities in Wales," she added.

"When it comes to coal tips in Wales, our communities deserve to feel safe, and the Welsh Government must publish this information and start much-needed engagement with those local communities at greatest risk.”

Jewell brought this issue to the Senedd in March, insisting that providing the public with the location of higher-risk tips would "promote trust and accountability", and would allow communities to be better prepared in the event of a potential collapse.

A campaigner who himself lives under a coal tip has also criticised the Climate Minister's comment this week, after she denied any previous government complacency about the safety of Welsh coal tips.

"I'm afraid I just don't understand the premise of that," the Minister said.

"This is isn't a sudden reaction to something - it's a piece of work that's been ongoing for a very long time.

"The Law Commission has been very thorough with it - we certainly aren't suddenly reacting to something."

Phil Thomas, who campaigns as Clear South Wales Coal Tips, said: "To be frank, I don’t understand the premise of her response!

"I’d like her to define the period of time the Minister considers to be ‘a long time’, because to me it seems like it is two years and three months - exactly the moment the authorities in Wales were caught short on the Tylorstown-Llanwonno coal-avalanche.

"Stability issues were known, but the Welsh Government indicated cash would not be made available to make tips safe unless an economic output could be found as a result."

The National reported previously that a 2014 RCT council document suggested councils were required to make a "business case" to the Welsh Government before it would fund stabilisation works.

That document stated the focus of the business case should be "economic outputs such as bringing forward development land".

One tip listed as affected by this policy was located in Tylorstown, though it's unclear whether this was the same one that collapsed following Storm Dennis in early 2020.

Pressed on the issue by the Welsh Conservatives leader in the Senedd earlier this year, First Minister Mark Drakeford responded: "It depended on a business case, well fancy that.

"Before you spend public money you need a business case.” 

Around 2,500 disused coal tips remain in Wales, with 327 classed as high-risk.

The Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil council areas have the highest concentration of high-risk sites.

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On Thursday the Climate Minister announced plans to introduce a new law that would strengthen council and government powers to inspect and stabilise Welsh coal tips.

As part of these proposals, the government intends to create a new specialised supervisory body that will oversee the new safety regime.

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The minister said that releasing the location of the highest risk tips would "not necessarily" have to wait until all these changes were in place.

However, asked whether she herself had an idea of when this information would be made public, James said: "No, I don't.

"We're going to do it when it's the right time."

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