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Friends of the Earth today slammed The Labour Government for its hypocrisy in announcing the destruction of an internationally important wildlife site through the completion of the Cardiff Bay Barrage - despite the condemnation of the scheme from Labour Welsh Office Ministers while in opposition.

Labour politicians including current Welsh Office Ministers Ron Davies, Peter Hain and Win Griffiths made fierce attacks on the plan while in opposition [1], but now in power, they have announced an intention to complete the barrage after conducting a secretive 'review' [2].The review took place without participation from the public and wildlife groups despite the acknowledged significance of the mudflats in the Bay for wildlife [3] especially for 4,000 Dunlin and 600 Redshank.

The Barrage will destroy mudflats which should form part of the Severn Estuary Special Protection Area designated under the European Birds Directive. Cardiff Bay itself is already designated as a SSSI making it one of the country's most important wildlife sites.

Charles Secrett, Director of Friends of the Earth said:
"The Government's decision to complete the Cardiff Bay Barrage is environmental madness. Giving the green light after a secret review, with no public consultation, makes a mockery of Labour's claims to care for the environment and to value open Government. The hypocrisy of these three ministers is breathtaking after years of criticising the project in opposition and now destroying the type of internationally important habitat Labour pledged to protect at the Earth Summit just a fortnight ago. The whole set-up stinks.

"Friends of the Earth is determined the Barrage will be stopped and we are consulting our lawyers with a view to block it in the courts."




[1] While in opposition all three Welsh Office Ministers condemned the decision to build the Barrage and the failure of the then Government to designate Cardiff Bay as an SPA. Welsh Secretary Ron Davies said: "..they [the Conservative Government] have presided over the wholesale destruction of sites which have been designated. We have seen them wriggle dishonestly and illegally out of their international obligations under the EC directive."(Hansard, 20 October 1992).

"The case for the Barrage was never proved to my satisfaction and there were overwhelming environmental grounds for rejecting it." (Letter to Cardiff FOE, 3 June 1994).

"I have never believed that the barrage will achieve the things that it is said it will achieve and, if at all possible, the contract will be cancelled." (Western Mail, 2 November 1994).

Peter Hain (Junior Welsh Office Minister): "First the alternative solutions suggested by the RSPB and others have not been given much credence by the Government. Secondly, the Government have not paid serious attention to the need to satisfy the requirements of European Community Law to declare Special Protection Areas, including the Severn Estuary and therefore Cardiff Bay. Thirdly, there is a strong case for suggesting that, in attempting to exclude Cardiff Bay from the ecological unit of which it is a key part - the Severn Estuary - Ministers have made a conscious attempt to circumvent both the spirit and the letter of European law." (Hansard, 20 October 1992).

Win Griffiths (Junior Welsh Office Minister): "It is vital to retain the mudflats so that the migratory and wading birds can have the benefit of those feeding grounds." (Hansard 20 October 1992).

[2] On Friday 4 July the Government quietly announced that it had conducted its 'review'and reached a decision through a Parliamentary question and answer. "Ron Davies : I have undertaken a thorough review of the Cardiff Bay Barrage project. In the course of the review I have received and considered legal opinion and an analysis of the economic impact of the barrage. In the light of their advice I have concluded that the Barrage should be completed." (Hansard 4 July 1997).

[3] The European Commission is still investigating the failure of the UK Government to designate the site as part of the Severn Estuary SPA and so the legal status of the Barrage remains uncertain. The Commission has stated that in its view Cardiff Bay is an integral part of the wider Severn Estuary SPA and should therefore have been designated as such.


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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust