Current project status
The current status of this project is: Analysis of responses.
List of project stages:
- Analysis of responses
- 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
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 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.
Our consultation paper, published on 9 June 2021, contains our findings as to the ways in which the current legislation is not working well and our provisional proposals for a new regulatory framework for coal tips in Wales. The proposed new regulatory framework seeks to 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 supervise the management of all disused tips.
- A coal tips register, compiled and maintained by the supervisory authority, which would include a wide range of information including potential risks associated with each disused tip.
- Inspections of each tip for the purpose of a risk assessment and designing a tip management plan. The inspection could potentially cover all potential risks including the risk of tip slides but also flooding, pollution and any other risks.
- 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.
The consultation has now closed, and the team is analysing responses. We will publish a final report with our recommendations to the Welsh Government in early 2022.
If you have any questions, you can contact the team at: CoalTips@lawcommission.gov.uk.
Area of law
Nicholas Paines QC