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Environment

Call for more cash for coal tip safety as new data shows Neath Port Talbot has greatest number of disused coal tip sites in Wales

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The Welsh Government is calling for more funding to help emergency preparedness after releasing new data on the number of coal tip sites – with Neath Port Talbot having more than double the number of any other local authority in Wales.

The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford has made a fresh call for the UK Government to invest in coal tip safety and ‘help communities who have already given so much’.

For the first time ever, the Welsh Government has been able to provide a breakdown of the 2,456 identified tips in Wales split into risk categories and by local authority.

The new data follows a written statement from Climate Change Minister Julie James earlier this month where she confirmed Welsh Government had collected the data and shared with local authorities and Local Resilience Forums to assist with emergency preparedness.

The data shows that Neath Port Talbot has the greatest number of sites at 607 but that Rhondda Cynon Taf has the most sites classified as being at higher risk at 75.

Higher risk sites fall under categories C and D which recognise there is a potential to cause risk to safety, not that there is an imminent or immediate threat – it means that more frequent inspections are scheduled.

The publication of the data comes ahead of this afternoon’s Coal Tip Safety Summit, which is meeting for the fourth time. The summit will discuss the progress of the Coal Tip Safety Task Force, including data mapping and ongoing maintenance and inspection work.

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Funding for the long-term reclamation of coal tips will also be discussed at the summit. Repurposing, reclamation and remediation of disused coal tips to deal with the legacy of the pre-devolution mining industry is estimated to cost at least £500m to £600m over the next decade and a half. The Welsh Government has stressed the need for this investment to be frontloaded in the coming years, as rainfall intensifies and temperatures increase because of the changing climate.

Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, said: “We recognise how concerning living in the shadow of a coal tip can be for communities and we want to reassure local residents that a lot of work is being done to ensure they are safe.

“An inspection and maintenance regime is in place, with winter inspections currently underway on the higher risk tips. We’re also piloting technology trials to better understand any ground movement at higher risk sites. But we know the risks will increase with climate change and we know the importance of reaching a long-term solution.

“These sites pre-date devolution. Our funding settlement does not recognise the substantial, long-term costs of remediating and repairing these sites. Tomorrow’s Spending Review is an opportunity for the UK Government to use its financial powers to help communities who’ve given so much to Wales and the United Kingdom during the coal-mining years. A package of investment to remediate these sites will show how our two governments can work together for the communities we serve.”

Councillor Andrew Morgan (Rhondda Cynon Taf), WLGA Leader said: “Work is being undertaken regularly to monitor and inspect coal tips for any movement or activity. However, this data shows that substantial long-term investment is needed if we are to make sure that necessary repair work is carried out and to ensure the safety of these sites across Wales.

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“I am pleased that both the UK Government and Welsh Government are taking the issue seriously and have set up the Coal Tip Safety Task Force to jointly map out the work needed. However, despite a cross-party joint letter endorsed by all of the 22 council leaders in Wales requesting UK Government funding, it is disappointing that the UK Government – despite some initial financial support – has so far refused to commit to an ongoing programme of funding which is going to be needed to deal with this legacy issue which pre-dates devolution.

“The Spending Review gives a chance for the UK Government to give some much-needed reassurance to communities that are still living in the shadow of their industrial legacy. By working together with partners including UK Government, Welsh Government and local government, and with long term investment, we can help to make sure that we protect these sites against future climate change risks, and to prevent repeating past disasters.”

Wales Disused Coal Tips

Coal Tips listed by local authority in risk category, with Category D the highest risk.

Local AuthorityCategory DCategory CCategory BCategory AReclaimed TipsLocal Authority Total
Neath Port Talbot122716337530607
Rhondda Cynon Taf2352958944303
Wrexham
32110785216
Caerphilly74467798205
Swansea
53612042203
Torfaen332814910175
Carmarthenshire

585953170
Blaenau Gwent311386610128
Merthyr Tydfill144530301120
Bridgend52627564118
Flintshire

1940665
Pembrokeshire
1654
61
Powys1
186328
Monmouthshire21078
27
Cardiff1
1011
22
Isle of Anglesey

26
8
Overall Category Total7125667811552962456

Note: Ceredigion, Conwy, Denbighshire, Gwynedd, Newport and The Vale of Glamorgan have no recorded disused coal tips. Monmouthshire – figures are subject to final review by Local Authority. Figures are subject to change as a result of ongoing inspections and following the development of new categorisation system to be introduced in new legislation.

(Lead image: Rhondda Cynnon Taf CBC)

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Hunting

National Trust joins Natural Resources Wales in banning trail hunting on its land

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The National Trust’s board of trustees has announced the charity will no longer issue licences for trail hunting on Trust land.

This activity has been suspended on Trust land since November 2020 following a police investigation into webinars involving huntspeople discussing the practice. 

In October, the then director of the Masters of the Fox Hounds Association (MFHA) was found guilty of encouraging the use of legal trail hunting as a screen to carry out the unlawful chasing and killing of animals. 

At the charity’s Annual General Meeting in October 2021, members voted by 76,816 to 38,184 in favour of banning trail hunting on National Trust land.  

Harry Bowell, Director of Land and Nature said: “The board of trustees has carefully considered this issue. Its decision to issue no further licences for trail hunting is based on a wide range of considerations. These include – but are not limited to – a loss of trust and confidence in the MFHA, which governs trail hunting, the vote by National Trust members at our recent AGM, the considerable resources needed to facilitate trail hunting and the reputational risk of this activity continuing on our land.”   

Hunting wild mammals with dogs was banned in England and Wales by the Hunting Act of 2004. Following the National Trust’s 2017 AGM, the conservation charity introduced a dedicated Trail Hunting Management Team, which oversaw the licensing process and monitored trail hunting activity against the terms of the new licences.  

Since then, the Trust has seen both compliant and legitimate activity, but also multiple reported breaches.  

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The move by National Trust follows that of Welsh environment body Natural Resources Wales who also banned the practice earlier this month.

Dominic Driver, Head of Land Stewardship for NRW, said: “We have carefully considered the court ruling and our role before coming to a decision at the Board meeting, which we held in public session. The Board has decided not to renew our agreement with the Master Fox Hounds Association.

“The outcome of the court case against a senior leader of the MFHA has resulted in a loss of confidence in the organisation’s ability to ensure its activities are carried out within the law and terms of its agreement.

“In order to assure ourselves properly that trail hunting on our estate wasn’t being used as a cover for illegal activity, we would have to invest in skills and resources that we currently don’t have, to police it properly. Given what has historically been a minor use of the land we manage, this does not represent good use of our limited resources.

“As all trail hunting was managed under the same agreement, all trail hunting activity on the NRW-managed estate will end with immediate effect.”

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The move by Natural Resources Wales was welcomed by the RSPCA.

RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said: “This is a very welcome move from Natural Resources Wales, and marks a major step towards curtailing illegal hunting.

“The use of the scent of dead animals such as foxes as used by trail hunts is totally unnecessary as it can result in the hounds chasing live foxes rather than following the scent trail. There are other alternatives, such as drag hunting, in which hounds follow an artificially laid scent which is not derived from animals, so does not pose a threat to wildlife.

“We are concerned that legal trail hunting is being used to create a smoke screen to allow illegal hunting with dogs to continue, as a recent successful prosecution showed where hunters were encouraged to use trail hunting as a cover for illegal fox hunting – so this move to ban is wholly welcome, and we urge other landowners to follow suit in the interests of animal welfare.”

(Lead image: National Trust)

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Business

Swansea-based recycling business scoops national award

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Family-run business, Gavin Griffiths Recycling came out top at the Growing Business Awards 2021

This is the second award for the Swansea-based business this year, after the firm found success at the Swansea Bay Business Awards, picking up the Business of the Year 2021 award

The business describes itself as one of the region’s leading recycling, waste management, haulage and aggregate suppliers.

In a very competitive category at an awards ceremony to honour and reward the UK’s most entrepreneurial and high growth business, up against 1,400 other businesses in the category, Gavin Griffiths Recycling came out on top at the Growing Business Awards 2021.  

The firm said they were delighted to be announced B2B Business of the Year 2021 at the ceremony held at the Grosvenor Hotel in London. They described this latest award as further testimony to the hard work and determination that has seen the business accelerate its growth plans since its birth in 2005.

During the last 18 months, the group has opened its second site, a 40-acre inert recycling facility in Carmarthenshire, complimenting its existing mixed recycling facility in Swansea whilst delivering one of its largest and most prestigious contracts working on the Llangennech railway crash land remediation.  

The arrival of new staff, additional machinery, plant and 10 new trucks to support the expansion plans have also seen the continued investment into the business.

The company said that whilst keeping its values as a family business, they have continued their community and social values programme, supporting grassroots sports, individuals, schools, and charities across South and West Wales.

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Gavin Griffiths, Group Managing Director commented: “I was very honoured to see us make the final of such a prestigious national award, but when our name was read out as the winner, I was extremely proud of what we have achieved as a team. I would like thank the whole team, as well as every one of our customers, suppliers and stakeholders for supporting us on our journey so far. 

“This recognition is phenomenal, we are so grateful and humbled to have been chosen from so many other amazing throughout the UK. We have some exciting developments on the horizon that will see us pioneer and lead the way in the recycling market. To win two awards in one year, really shows how we have kept our family ethos and worked hard to serve our customers across the whole business.”

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Business

Swansea named the best city in Wales to buy pre-loved presents

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close up shot of a person wrapping a gift box

Sustainable e-tailer Bower Collective’s latest study finds the UK’s top places to buy second-hand gifts this Christmas

As much as £42m worth of Christmas gifts are unwanted (and sent to landfill) each year. To break the taboo around second-hand gifting this festive season, Bower Collective have released a study looking at the number of vintage stores, second-hand shops and vintage and second-hand events per capita across UK towns and cities to find the top places to find pre-loved presents.

Considering all factors, the study found Swansea is the “thrifty-gifting” capital of Wales. Elsewhere in Wales, Wrexham has the most second-hand shops per capita. The Welsh town has 34 second-hand shops per 10,000 people, the most per capita in the UK. Newport has the 4th most second-hand shops per capita, with 38 to offer.

The data for the four major cities can be found below:

LocationOverall rank in WalesNo. of vintage stores (rank per capita)No. of second-hand shops (rank per capita)No. of recent second-hand events (rank per capita)
Swansea1st16th18th47th
Newport2nd30th4th51st
Wrexham3rd49th1st41st
Cardiff4th17th41st44th

The study also researched the search volume of each city for sustainable and second-hand shopping terms like ‘sustainable gifts’, ‘charity shops’ and ‘vintage kilo sale’. Per capita, Cardiff searches the most for relevant terms in Wales. However they also found that searches in Swansea increased by 528% in the past year alone, the biggest one year growth in Wales and the UK overall.

Overall across the UK, Norwich, Worthing, Newcastle and Worcester are the best places to buy a pre-loved present. From looking at Google search trends, the study also found that Brits are searching for ‘sustainable gifts’ 988% more than they were three years ago. Searches for ‘Vintage Kilo Sale’ also rose by 167% and ‘charity shops’ searches went up by 95%.

Norwich, Norfolk featured in the top 10 for all factors, and also ranked top for the most vintage shops per capita, with 28 to choose between. The next best cities to go vintage shopping are Carlisle and Brighton.

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The city with the most second-hand events (like vintage kilo sales and table-top sales) is Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. For this festive season, residents of the city have over 30 events to get stuck into. The next places hosting the most second-hand events were Lincoln and Worcester.

The study can also reveal the most ‘thrifty gift’ winners of each UK Nation. Derry in Northern Ireland is the best place to buy pre-loved presents on the Emerald Isle, and considering its smaller size, Derry ranked 4th in the study for the number of vintage shops per capita – with 8 to purchase from. Glasgow is the ‘thrifty gifting’ capital of Scotland, and ranks 5th in the study overall. Glasgow also has the 6th most vintage shops per. capita in the UK – with 44 to explore.

The study was also supplemented with research into the UK’s changing search trends for sustainable and second-hand gift giving. The data found that those in Bath, Edinburgh and Oxford are searching the most for second-hand and sustainable gift giving search terms per capita.

However, since 2020 Swansea has seen the biggest one-year increase in relevant search terms (up by 528%). Milton Keynes (with an increase of 146%) and Woking (with an increase of 134%) were the next cities with the biggest growth of interest in shopping more climate-conciously.

(Lead image: EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA / Pexels.com)

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