Regulating Coal Tip Safety in Wales

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

Improving the regulatory framework for coal tip safety in Wales

Pwyswch yma i ddarllen y fersiwn Cymraeg o’r tudalen yma.

The problem

The current legislation relating to coal tips does not effectively address the management of disused coal tips. This is important as the coal tip landslips which occurred in Wales in February 2020 following Storms Ciara and Dennis illustrate the potential risks that disused coal tips present to communities and to the environment.

The current legislation was enacted following the Aberfan disaster in 1966, when a coal tip slipped onto a primary school, resulting in the death of 116 children and 28 adults. However, this legislation relates to a time when there was an active coal industry and does not provide an effective management framework for disused coal tips in the twenty-first century.  In Wales today there are approximately 2000 disused coal tips, the majority of which are in private ownership.

With the prospect of increasing rainfall intensity as a result of climate change, the Welsh Government has established a Coal Tip Safety Task Force to deliver a programme of work to address the safety of coal tips in Wales. The Task Force programme involves responding to immediate safety concerns and developing a new long-term policy approach to the legacy of disused coal tips. The Law Commission project will complement this work.

The project

The Welsh Government has asked the Law Commission to evaluate current legislation and to consider options for new legislation to ensure a robust, integrated and future-proofed regulatory system which adopts a uniform approach to inspection, maintenance and record-keeping throughout the life cycle of all coal tips from creation to abandonment to remedial works.

The project will look at current legislation relating to coal tip safety with a view to identifying gaps, inconsistencies and approaches which are unhelpful or have become outdated.

It will identify options for alternative regulatory models appropriate for adoption in Wales, and consider the features needed to ensure that any proposed system is effective. Following presentation of our provisional proposals in a consultation paper, and a period of consultation, we will make recommendations for a new regulatory framework in a final report.

The project is expected to take between 13 and 15 months.

Next steps

Work on the project has now begun. We expect to publish a consultation paper in early 2021, and a final report by early 2022.

Contact

If you have any questions, you can contact the team at: CoalTips@lawcommission.gov.uk.

Project details

Area of law

Public law

Commissioner

Nicholas Paines QC