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Arscott and Others v The Coal Authority (1) and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council (2), High Court

19 August 2003
The issues

Flooding – nuisance.

The facts

The Merthyr Tydfil owned a large recreation area known as Grove Fields. They were liable to flood and frequently were out of use. Two tips overlooking Aberfan which were not considered dangerous but served as a reminder to the local community of the tragedy that had occurred in October 1966 were removed by the Coal Board. At the agreement of the Local Authority, the discard was deposited on Grove Fields to create a raised level playing area. This was done in 1972 to 1975. In 1998 the River Taff overflowed. The property of the Claimants flooded and the cause was the diversion of floodwaters caused by raising the level of Grove Fields. The Claimant’s sued the Coal Authority and the Council.

The decision

1.There were strong reasons supporting the removal of the tips and the placing of the spoil on Grove Fields. It had been the Council’s policy after Aberfan to remove the tips. The drainage of Grove Fields was improved and a decent playing field was created for the village. This was particularly important because the National Playing Fields Association was prepared to make a grant but wanted the new field to be as close to the disaster site of Aberfan as possible. This would also compensate the local population for the loss of Aberfan Park and there was generally a scarcity of recreational areas in the locality. Approval was given to the Scheme by the Glamorgan River Authority. Unfortunately, whilst it was likely that the Authority would have considered flow rates and potential water levels, there was no documentation surviving.

Public support for the scheme was widespread, as evidenced by a Petition of 15,000 requesting removal of the tips at the time. The Scheme had the support of the Welsh Office. An occupier of land was entitled in law to prevent floodwater from a river coming onto his land. There was no liability and nuisance as a consequence of the landowners operations and more water flowed onto neighbouring land causing damage.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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