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Swansea West Wales

Coal Authority denies liability for flooded homes in Skewen

THE COAL AUTHORITY is under fire by flooded residents in Skewen who have said that the way the government organisation is acting in a “disgusting”.

The local council has estimated that some residents could be out of their homes for nine months or more.

The Authority has offered £500 to each home affected, plus “reasonable labour costs”. It also said it was doing everything it could to help.

Despite admitting it is responsible for “remediating mine shafts and making sure mine-water has a permanent solution”, the Coal Authority said it did not have liability for flooding.

The news of the Coal Authority’s denial of liability for the damaged homes, comes as flood-hit residents in the Neath Port Talbot village of Skewen say they are considering taking legal action in a bid for compensation.

Phil Thomas represents a newly-formed residents’ group, whose members say they are willing to take legal action to get what they feel is owed.

His house was badly hit by the flooding, with everything on the ground floor destroyed and a bill amounting to thousands of pounds.

“The responsibility for this is not being accepted by the Coal Authority,” said Mr Thomas.

“We want them to do the right thing – there’s a moral obligation here. Five hundred pounds to clear our gardens? It’s an insult.

“To some extent, we will all be living with the effects of this for the rest of our lives.

“We are not going to go quietly into the night – as I think Dylan Thomas once said – we will pursue this until the absolute bitter end.”

Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon, also said there is a “moral responsibility” to compensate the residents.

“The community is incredibly strong and they’ve behaved with real dignity,” he said.

“But there’s also a lot of anger, because there is a feeling that the Coal Authority and the British Government have not done enough to show that they are liable and responsible for what has taken place.

“I think what people want to see now is a guarantee that they will be compensated for the losses that are not covered by their own insurance.”

Lisa Pinney, chief executive at the Coal Authority, said: “Every home flooded, from any cause, is a tragedy. Our sympathy remains with all those affected by this incident.

“Our focus continues to be on listening to residents and providing practical support wherever possible, and working with partners such as Neath Port Talbot Council, to help those affected move forwards and recover their homes from the flood.

“The new temporary access road at Goshen Park has allowed the majority of families access back to their homes to live, or to progress the recovery work that will enable them to move back in time.

“We can now begin the permanent remediation works to repair the mineshaft and build a permanent solution for the mine water. The final services have been relocated this week so that full excavation around the affected mineshaft can begin. Clean-up work is progressing well and we have provided extra services, such as private drain clearance, at the request of residents.

“The Coal Authority is continuing to do all that it is able to do to support residents, aid the recovery of flooded homes and to put a permanent mine water management scheme in place to provide peace of mind.”

Lisa Wilcox, whose garden was ruined during the flooding, said: “Residents were considering legal action, but hoped common sense would prevail”. 

“We’re hoping that we’re not going to have to go down the legal avenue, nobody wants to pursue legal advice and things but we are looking at it perhaps,” she said. “We’re not asking for much, we’re just asking for what we’ve lost.”

Local councillor Mike Harvey said the Coal Authority’s decision not to accept liability is leaving his constituents “angry and frustrated”.

Almost 300 old coal tips in Wales have been classed as “high-risk” a year on from a 60,000-tonne landslip caused by Storm Dennis.

The matter was discussed at a Welsh Government summit on mine safety on Tuesday last week (Feb 16)

Wales has more than 2,000 coal tips. Most are on private land and most are around the south Wales valleys.

Of those, 294 are categorised as “high-risk”, meaning they could endanger life or property.

Seventy are in Caerphilly, 64 in Rhondda Cynon Taf, 59 in Merthyr Tydfil, 42 in Bridgend, 35 in Neath Port Talbot, 16 in Blaenau Gwent and eight in Swansea.

The landslip last year was at Tylorstown, in Rhondda. Since it happened, work has been done to map tips and assess their stability.