26 yeas after Aberfan in 1992 no lessons learnt 56 years after Aberfan and no lessons learnt WHY no information?

26 yeas after Aberfan in 1992 no lessons learnt 56 years after Aberfan and no lessons learnt WHY no information?

Provisional figures taken from the Law Commission they report, 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 (9%) are managed by Natural Resources Wales (NRW). The Coal Authority owns 33 tips (2%).


Most of the 70% private coal tips, which would have been owned, previously by The National Coal Board (NCB), were sold off in the late 80s and 90s, was this to mitigate their risks of managing any costs involved of safety requirements of the coal spoils?


 Did the Government and NCB know the risks of these sites from ‘Halcrow’ reports and other reports?  Reports now held at Glamorgan Archives reports that would have been undertaken on all the NCB owned sites.


After privatisation of the industry, brought about by the Coal Industry Act 1994, land owned by British Coal was sold off directly or disposed of by way of Restructuring

Schemes. At the time of sale, the cost of maintaining tips included with the sale was calculated.

Many tips passed into private ownership at this time. Some were acquired by local authorities or by community groups. In some cases, British Coal gave money to purchasers to contribute to the cost of maintaining the tips.


1966, the Secretary of State for Wales, appointed a Tribunal to inquire into the causes of, and circumstances relating to, the Aberfan disaster. The NCB accepted the lessons and recommendations set out in the Report of the Tribunal and gave the Minister of Power an immediate account of what they were doing to remedy the shortcomings. Comprehensive information about all NCB tips was assembled (for the first time) and policies were devised for controlling them. A tip safety committee was established by the NCB, and a programme of inspection, investigation and remedial work was installed.


So why 26 yeas after Aberfan and in 1992 Dozens of old coal tips in south Wales are to be re-checked after a landslip, CAUSED BY HEAVY RAIN, swamped a school playground with thousands of tons of slurry earlier this week. David Hunt, Secretary of State for Wales at the time, ordered a complete safety review after talking to worried parents and inspecting clean-up work at Tredegar Comprehensive School, Gwent.


December 1992 the Secretary of State for Wales made a statement on the recent severe flooding in Wales. The stability of coal tips in heavy rain will always be a problem the history of South Wales proves this.


December 1992 a debate on flooding in Wales: David Hunt, Secretary of State for Wales speaking in Parliament

“Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act 1969, under part II of which disused colliery spoil tips are inspected regularly by county councils, which are responsible for their safety. But my hon. Friend is right. Before I came into the Chamber I was assured that all tips are inspected regularly, especially those where there are suspected” “all tips are inspected regularly, especially those where heavy rain may cause problems. I have asked my officials once again to liaise with the other authorities to ensure that all tips are inspected, particularly in view of what has happened recently. I shall bear heavily the responsibility that my hon. Friend has put on me and which I readily assume.”


Ted Rowlands MP for MerthyrThere are disasters waiting to happen in south Wales. A recent survey identified hundreds of potential landslips in the valleys of South Wales. If they do not happen in Blaencwm or Blaenrhondda, they will happen elsewhere. Only last week, the survey said that every coal tip in south Wales was safe, but this Monday one flowed. A disaster will occur and there will be a substantial loss of life unless the Secretary of State gets to grips with the problem.” 


The areal density of landslides in the coalfield of South Wales is one of the highest in the UK. During the past 100 years, land sliding has had a considerable impact, causing structural damage and as we know loss of life.


Collections held at Glamorgan Archives relating to the coal industry

A detailed catalogue is available


D1617 – Welsh Office, National Coal Board Coal Tip Reports Collection – 1968-1976


The Law Commission is a statutory independent body that keeps the law of England and Wales under review and recommends reform where it is needed.


Regulating Coal Tip Safety in Wales: Summary of the Consultation Paper 9 June 2021 The Law Commission


The Land Drainage Act 1991 The Law Commission


9.17 An additional approach is to provide authorities with the power to intervene on private land to work on drainage systems on a proactive basis to prevent blockages arising.

At present, powers available to local authorities under the Land Drainage Act 1991 are limited and in practice are exercised only in cases of outright drainage failure.


On 26 October 2021 “Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) council, said the tips were regularly monitored and checked for movement, but long-term investment was needed.


"Clearly, if climate change is going to see more heavy rain in short periods of time, we want to make sure and give assurance to residents that the tips are stable," he told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast.”



The role of civil and criminal liability in securing coal tip safety from The Law Commission


6.8 In our view (The Law Commission) the design of a new regulatory framework is the most effective approach to ensuring that appropriate steps are taken to prevent harm. Consideration of civil and criminal liability reinforces this view. While it may be able to provide a remedy after the event, we do not think that it is able to moderate the conduct of tip owners with sufficient precision to prevent harm occurring.


Loss of specialism from The Law Commission


7.2 Many local authorities, particularly smaller ones, pointed to a loss of specialist skill in coal tip safety over the last two decades caused in the main by retirements, restructuring and funding constraints. A lack of resources also led to an inability to resolve coal tip safety problems proactively, for example by intervening with tip drainage maintenance before the tip became a danger. The loss of Land Reclamation Programme funding to cover remediation work has made this problem worse.


Living by coal tip leaves family fearing rain



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Team @ AberdareOnline

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