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Dragons of the Tips

It is with great pleasure that we can today announce the launch of the ‘Dragons of the Tips’ project – a new project which seeks to improve our understanding of the amphibian and reptile fauna associated with colliery spoil sites in south-east Wales. Despite growing evidence in recent years highlighting the importance of these sites for invertebrates and fungi, relatively little work has been done to date to document the amphibian and reptile species that now call these sites ‘home’. The ‘Dragons of the Tips’ project seeks to change that!


Thanks to funding provided by the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre (SEWBReC) through their ‘Recording Grant’, we have been able to purchase equipment to begin recording and monitoring amphibians and reptiles on colliery spoil sites in south-east Wales. This has included purchasing corrugated reptile sheets for reptile monitoring and a high-powered torch for night-time amphibian surveys. An initial focus will be placed on a small number of selected sites within Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend County Borough, with an opportunity to extend this further afield in the future.


We are currently in the process of liaising with landowners (the relevant councils) regarding necessary permissions, with the hope to start these surveys shortly. When current Covid-19 restrictions ease, there will also be an opportunity to get involved with these surveys. Stay tuned for updates on the selected sites and how you can get involved.

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Coed Ely Colliery - Planning Application (January 2021)

As some of you will know, outline planning permission was granted for the former Coed Ely Colliery site back in 2011. I am extremely passionate about this site since it was responsible for me first getting interested in wildlife as a teenager. When development started on the site in 2017, it broke my heart to see the loss of so much wildlife that I had come accustomed to over the years.

Now, the conditions surrounding the original planning application have expired and the landowners (Welsh Government) are seeking to extend them for up to another 12 years. If granted, this will mean that the Environmental Impact Assessment prepared back in 2009 (12 years ago!) to inform the original outline planning permission (ref: 09/0386/13) will be used to inform all future development at Coed Ely Colliery. That will mean that any development on the site between now and 2033 will be impact assessment on species and habitats using data generated from 2009 or before - we do not think that is acceptable!


We are of the professional opinion that the conclusions drawn by the original Environmental Impact Assessment in 2009 can no longer be relied upon since the site has undergone significant natural regeneration since this time, and far more evidence now exists to show that this site is of county or regional importance for various wildlife including invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians and fungi. Up-to-date, detailed and reliable ecological information should be used to inform development proposals at Coed Ely Colliery both now and into the future.


If you agree with this and would like to formally object (which would be greatly appreciated), you can download our template letter using the button below. Don't forget to send your comments via email to planningservices@rctcbc.gov.uk on or before 27/01/2021, and include planning application number 21/0001/15 in the email. Thanks!

Liam Olds

Founder & Entomologist

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Statement on Wattstown Tip, Rhondda

A statement in response to the news of further slippage of Wattstown Tip, Rhondda Cynon Taf:

“In light of the recent slip of Wattstown Tip, and of the collapse of spoil tips in Tylorstown earlier in the year, we share the concern of local residents regarding the stability and safety of colliery spoil tips in the Rhondda Valleys. While the aim of the Colliery Spoil Biodiversity Initiative is to raise awareness of the important wildlife value of colliery spoil tips, we recognise that public safety must always take precedence. Any spoil tips deemed unstable and a threat to life should be made safe without hesitation, and we support the work of The Coal Authority and Rhondda Cynon Taf Council in their evaluation of the structural stability of Wattstown Tip and others in the county borough. Initial signs suggest that the slippage at Wattstown Tip isn’t as bad as was initially feared, with a Rhondda Cynon Taf Council statement saying “…initial feedback indicates that the slip is shallow and within anticipated parameters of movement”.

“Together with the collapse of spoil tips in Tylorstown in early 2020, this slippage has again conjured up discussion about the widespread removal of spoil tips across South Wales due to perceived safety risks. It is important to acknowledge, however, that the vast majority of colliery spoil tips are indeed safe and pose no risk to the public – we shouldn’t tarnish them all with the same brush. Though readily overlooked and underappreciated, colliery spoil tips are among the most important wildlife habitats in South Wales, supporting nationally rare and scarce species sometimes found nowhere else in the world; they are also important historical monuments to the coal industry that shaped the lives of Valley people for centuries. It is important that we do not lose these special places and the unique animal and plant communities that they support. We urge local and national governments to acknowledge the ecological, geological, archaeological, historical, cultural and social value of colliery spoil tips and properly assess the evidence regarding public safety before making any rash decisions regarding their future”.

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