South West Wales

Ystalyfera landslip 'could cost council millions'

The landslide in Ystalyfera
Image caption The first landslip happened in December 2012

A landslip could affect 150 homes and cost Neath Port Talbot council millions of pounds, its leader has said.

About 20 people were told to leave a terraced row in Ystalyfera after mounds of earth fell down the hillside.

One empty property in Cyfyng Road is set to be knocked down while there could be compulsory purchases on others.

Leader Rob Jones said he has spoken to the Welsh Government about financial help for the authority.

He said people can claim packages of home loss compensation before and after they are asked to leave.

If it is then decided to demolish properties, a compulsory purchase will take place, with the amount given to owners negotiated by them and the authority.

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Media captionFormer resident Morganne Bendle: "We're completely broken as a family"

"It has the potential to run into millions," Mr Jones said.

He said he has spoken to Welsh Government ministers about help to finance this, adding: "I hope there will be some assistance, but there is no guarantee."

Thousands of tonnes of rock, soil and trees first slipped down the hillside behind the houses in 2012, with a further two landslides this year, causing some gardens to drop away.

Mr Jones admitted there was "no engineering solution" for the 10 properties on Cyfyng Road.

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Media captionCouncil leader Rob Jones said the local authority "can't predict where the landslides will occur"

He said more surveys were being carried out and the results could have further implications for about 150 homes that feature on the council's "hazard risk map".

"This is a moving feast because we can't predict where the landslides will occur," he added.

"And therefore this information [from surveys we are undertaking] will give us a better understanding to see if the wider community are implicated in this issue."

Ystalyfera, where many homes are built into the hillside, has a population of about 3,000 and was once home to several mines.

Its geology and industrial past have made it prone to landslides - and there have been at least 45 incidents since 1897.

Image copyright John Emery
Image caption Eight of the 10 previously affected properties are now empty

Earlier this month, some residents in Cyfyng Road were ordered to leave because of an "imminent risk" to their lives.

Of the 10 properties, six households had left while two, who were appealing against the order to leave, remained. The remaining two houses were derelict.

Of the evacuated group, one household remains in "temporary accommodation".

In the meantime, Mr Jones said no decisions had been made on whether any more homes would face demolition.

However, he added: "If it means we have to demolish and go down the route of compulsory purchase orders, then that is something that will be negotiated between the home owners and the local authority.

"I'm in contact with the Welsh Government. I would hope there would be some financial assistance [for compensation payouts] but there is no guarantee."

He said it was not known if other properties nearby could be affected in the future.

Mr Jones said laser scans of the area from the air, known as "lidar surveys", would shed more light on the issue.

However, he stressed the council had a "statutory duty" to maintain public safety and would do whatever was necessary to protect people's lives.

Image caption Residents met at the St David's Community Hall in Ystalyfera on Tuesday night

On Tuesday night, about 50 residents held a public meeting in the village to discuss their concerns.

Tracy Clark, who has been forced to move with her children, said: "I don't think we have been informed enough and I don't think we have been helped enough."

Another of those temporarily displaced with her relatives, Morganne Bendle, said: "We're completely broken as a family.

"We don't know what's coming next. It's possible we might be able to move back in six months, then again it [the property] could be condemned."

Updates are expected to be revealed at a council-organised public meeting at Ystalyfera School on 7 September.

Mr Jones added: "We want to give the local community as full account as possible of the situation to date and it is important that all residents in this area are made aware of the meeting."

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