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

We have published our report on Coal Tip Safety in Wales.

Read the Regulating Coal Tip Safety report here.

Read the summary of the Regulating Coal Tip Safety report here.

You can view responses to the consultation here.

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

All the supporting documents can be found at the bottom of the page.

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 just under 2500 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 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 complements this work.

The project

The Welsh Government 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.

Consultation

Our consultation paper was published on 9 June 2021. It contains our findings as to the ways in which the current legislation is not working well and sets out provisional proposals for a new regulatory framework for coal tips in Wales. After a series of consultation events and meetings with a wide range of stakeholders, consultation closed on 10 September 2021. Consultation responses indicated strong support for our proposals.

Report

Our report, published on 24 March 2022, makes recommendations for a new regulatory framework for disused coal tips.  This would promote consistency in the management of coal tips across the country and avert danger by introducing a proactive rather than reactive approach. The proposed framework includes the introduction of:

  • A single supervisory authority with a duty to perform its functions so as to ensure the safety of disused coal tips and achieve compliance with regulatory requirements to a consistent standard across Wales.
  • A coal tips register, compiled and maintained by the supervisory authority, which would include a wide range of information including risk classifications and management measures for each disused tip.
  • Inspections of each tip for the purpose of a risk assessment and designing a tip management plan, incorporating consideration of risks  of instability, flooding, pollution and combustion.
  • Maintenance agreements and orders with owners and occupiers for lower risk tips to ensure that the maintenance required to prevent the tip becoming a hazard is carried out.
  • For those coal tips designated as high risk, an enhanced safety regime with increased involvement of the supervisory authority to manage the tip and reduce the chance of significant dangerous incidents occurring.

Next steps

The Welsh Government will now consider our recommendations.

Contact

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

Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Public law

Commissioner

Nicholas Paines QC