8:10am Thursday 17th January 2013 in Letters
AS a long-standing Councillor on the Vale, Sully and Penarth councils, I renew my concern over the latest position of proposals for the projected Severn Barrage which I believe, should the backing consortia’s scheme get the go-ahead, threatens many homes in Lower Penarth, Lavernock and Sully.
The threat of a barrage running between Lavernock/Swanbridge and Somerset seems a much stronger possibility now that Labour MP Peter Hain, who represents Neath in Parliament, has been given an apparent nod of approval by ministers to further work up the scheme with wealthy foreign backers.
I have been publicly warning local residents for at least the past five years that this project will not just ‘go away’, and that there is a real danger of planning blight falling on properties likely to be in the ‘firing line’ of this grand scheme, which will not bring a single benefit to either Penarth or Sully, let alone Dinas Powys and the open countryside north of Lavernock and Cosmeston.
There is no doubt in my mind that Peter Hain is hell- bent on bringing this scheme to the table as soon as he can secure the necessary approvals and finance. That is why he stood down from the front bench in Westminster to become a consultant to the project, which he promoted strongly while still a minister, and the fact that a Parliamentary Select Committee is currently hearing evidence from Mr Hain and his backers adds to the uncertainty.
Aside from personalities, this scheme, as I see it, will impact on numerous properties in the Penarth to Sully area, as the precise landfall on the Welsh side is undetermined, according to the several plans that have been published in recent years. However, close scrutiny of these widely publicised plans shows that properties in Lavernock, St Mary’s Well Bay, Swanbridge, and parts of Sully are likely to be most affected should the scheme proceed.
These properties front in some way on to the waters where the barrage will be under construction for well over a decade, and will find conditions pretty intolerable – whatever the project’s backers may otherwise claim.
So far media comment has been confined to the effect on bird life in the Severn Estuary, but none has dared to forecast accurately the impact on local people and their environment, who live in the most likely affected areas.
The precise route of the barrage is yet to be determined, but there is little doubt in my mind, as a seasoned observer of this project, that all the localities I have mentioned will be subject to upheaval and disruption over what will seem like a lifetime, should the project be allowed to proceed.
While I have not so far mentioned the surrounding areas, nevertheless the very fact that there is only a single track road between Penarth and Sully, with narrow country lanes off this road, means that access to the Barrage landfall will inevitably clog up the highways with massive machinery, major civil engineering works and most likely a considerable demolition of property in the area. If the scheme were also to include a rail and road link, then the consequences for this area are really horrendous over the next decade or so.
I trust that local people will wake up very quickly to the inherent dangers that face them, and make sure that their voices are heard in the right places, otherwise the scheme could receive approval from Labour’s Welsh ministers, who have unshakeable faith in hydro-power as the answer to Wales’ energy requirements for centuries to come.
Cllr Anthony M. Ernest Plymouth Ward Penarth Town Council