A compensation offer to residents whose homes were destroyed by flooding in Skewen has been slammed as “derisory”.
Back in January, around 80 residents were evacuated from their homes after a disused mine shaft filled with water and “burst”, sending torrents of water over the surrounding streets.
It will be at least 12 months until some people will be allowed to return to live in their homes, while others may never return because their houses are at risk of being demolished.
The Godden’s were one of many families devastated by the events on the afternoon of Thursday, January 21, as their home in Dynevor Road filled with water.
Chris Godden explained that their caravan and a car that they were unable to move have both been written off, while family photos and films were also destroyed.
The family, three of whom are frontline workers, had initially been staying with family members but have recently secured a rental property for the foreseeable future.
“Because we live in a bungalow everything has been destroyed and it will virtually have to be rebuilt from the bottom up,” the 58-year-old said.
“Our caravan has been written off and our Volkswagen has been written off but we still have to pay off the lease. The caravan was our main way of going on holiday because we’ve got four dogs and we’ve been doing that for the last 25 years.
“The perimeter wall has collapsed because of the water, the garage roof has collapsed so that’s going to have to be redone.
“In the house itself, a lot of memories were demolished as we lost photos and films. To restore them we have been quoted about £8,000.
“Our whole life has been totally destroyed. It’s very stressful because we’ve never rented property before and we can’t relax as it’s just not our place.”
The Coal Authority has offered £500 to residents to cover external damage that was caused during the flooding, as well as building a new water management system to prevent another flood in the future.
Mr Godden said that the compensation they had been offered is “not going to go far” in repairing the damage caused to their property.
He added: “The £500 payment is to reinstate the gardens but it’s not going to go far. I think the Coal Authority should give us a support package of some sort because for me it would go to things that we have lost, like the caravan.
“We’ve been totally uprooted from our house and put our lives on hold. We want to go home and we can’t.”
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A Jubilee Crescent resident, who did not want to be named, had just finished renovating their home when the flooding hit and caused a considerable amount of damage to the rooms downstairs.
They have estimated that they have lost around £50,000 as a result.
“I renovated all the walls, bathroom, kitchen, living room and windows which took a lot of money and we had the property valued on the day before the flood for £130,000,” they said.
“I spent about £20,000 on renovations and if I was to sell that property now I wouldn’t get anywhere near £100,000 so that is a £50,000 loss.
“I was renovating the house to get the value up before getting insurance.
“The water was up to about the knee level and everything downstairs was all damaged. Kitchen worktops, laminate flooring and the walls up to the knee.
“The flooding happened literally as we moved in – we had the van outside with the bed and appliances and were moving our stuff in.
“We were going to live in it but we’re not able to anymore.”
The resident said that they were hoping to receive “monetary help” and agreed that the £500 payment from the Coal Authority wouldn’t cover much of the damage.
They added: “It’s devastating to know that before the flood we had a property and a positive outlook and then our life turned upside down.
“Hopefully we will get some sort of monetary help.”
Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock raised residents’ concerns in Parliament earlier this week as he called the Coal Authority’s £500 compensation offer “derisory”.
Mr Kinnock said: “An already dreadful situation is regrettably being made all the more difficult and traumatic for residents because of the reluctance of the Coal Authority and the UK government to take responsibility.
“There is a moral responsibility here that each property should be returned to the condition it was in on January 20, and that no resident should be burdened with the cost.
“What has been offered so far by the Coal Authority is derisory. The cost of the damage caused by the mine water is running to tens of thousands of pounds for each property.”
Mr Kinnock appealed for the creation of a “one-off payment” to compensate for residents’ uninsured losses.
He added: “By the Coal Authority’s own admission, this was a unique incident and the work to remediate the mine shaft and install a water management system should prevent any future recurrence. Therefore, the Coal Authority should step-up and provide support to those without insurance and plug the gaps in insurance, so that no resident is out of pocket because of this incident.
“The unique circumstances and the work of the Coal Authority would mean this is a one-off payment in exceptional circumstances. This would not be setting a precedent, it would be doing the right thing, the decent thing, in response to an exceptional and unprecedented incident that has caused so much trauma.”
The Coal Authority stated that it would “continue to listen to feedback from residents” and “consider whether there are further practical ways” to provide more help.
A spokesman for the Coal Authority said: “Our sympathy remains with all those affected by the incident in Skewen on January 21, 2021.
“Whilst the Coal Authority are not liable for the flooding we recognise that it has had a significant impact on many homes and we want to offer whatever practical help and support we can within the bounds of the legislation and guidance we have to operate within.
“Our Skewen support policy was put in place to do this and includes a programme of outdoor clean up works (including clearing private drainage) and support to reinstate gardens and outside areas by providing up to £500 of materials (plus VAT) and reasonable labour. This is in addition to remediating the mineshaft and the new mine water management system to provide peace of mind. Residents can register for this support by contacting our dedicated residents’ helpline 0800 2884 268 or email@example.com.
“We continue to listen to feedback from residents and to consider whether there are further practical ways for us to provide more help where we are able. For example, we included private drain cleaning and clearance to our initial clean-up offer following feedback from residents.
“As the clean-up progresses we have a clearer picture of the reinstatement work needed for gardens and outside spaces and are reviewing this and the garden support applications made so far.
“This review was referred to by the UK Energy Minister, the Rt Hon Anne Marie Trevelyan, during the Adjournment Debate on 8 March 2021. We expect to provide more information on this next week (w/b March 15, 2021).”