Tuesday, April 7, 2009

15 days to stop the Severn Barrage?

Hands up if you respond to Government consultation papers....
Even on the blogosphere, probably not many of us do. And certainly, local people by and large do not generally write in to consultations in any large numbers. We are very good at campaigning and protesting in Wales, and you can expect a residents' group or campaign group to emerge during any major project, often without party politicians initiating it. The specialist organisations also always have a professional lobbying set-up and employ policy officers who can write their responses to consultations. But local people that don't generally campaign but are still well-informed, often do not realise that a consultation is taking place, and sometimes are not sure how to have their say.

Starting from tomorrow, the people of Wales have 15 days to stop the Severn Barrage, or Cardiff-Weston Barrage (precisely it is Lavernock point to Weston), from going ahead. If we can stop it we won't be displaying parochial NIMBYism, instead a voice against the Big Barrage is excitingly a voice in favour of one of the alternatives. These include two tidal lagoons (one in Wales and one in England), and the 'Shoots Barrage' which is smaller than the Severn Barrage, would cost less, would only take 4 years to build, and would not displace as many birds (it speaks volumes that the RSPB are willing to go for the Shoots Barrage, such is the destructive potential of the Severn one).

At a Plaid Public Meeting in Penarth someone made the crucial point for me, that if the Severn Barrage is ruled out, then the Estuary can eventually accomodate all kinds of renewable energy options. The Severn Barrage would 'impound' the tidal range, rendering other technologies useless. The 'Shoots' Barrage, near the second Severn crossing, would do no such thing.

Adam Price has written convincingly against a Barrage on his blog. I am not a nationalist of the 'Tryweryn' stripe. I was not born when that happened. But is this not the same situation? Would a Severn Barrage be fulfilling our needs or the targets of the prestige politicians in Westminster? Who gains? Is it the people of Wales or the profit margins of the companies that fund and lobby New Labour? Welsh taxpayers will be paying for this Barrage for 35 years, and after that the profits will go straight to London. It will take years to build, even longer than the tidal lagoons or the smaller Barrage. Outside of big business there is not an organisation that backs it.

The Vale of Glamorgan Labour MP John Smith backs the Barrage. For people of his ilk only prestige, big projects will do. Jobs at any cost, a strategy which knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Under this line of thinking the largest PFI in Western Europe (the St. Athan privatisation)- taxpayers giving private companies £14billion and letting them keep the profits- is instead 'the largest investment ever in Wales'. An investment in Wales but an investment for the London establishment. This line of thinking is redundant and it has failed us time and time again.

We must not allow the Severn Barrage to go ahead because it will mean the exploitation of our natural resources just like the coal and water that has been flushed away. The decision will be made outside Wales but we can still have an influence, and we should.

We have 15 days, and can visit the Department of Climate Change's consultation here to submit a response. Follow the link to register, it does not take long and is worth doing.

A strong opinion from South Wales will ensure that this unpopular and ecologically disastrous project does not go ahead. The same opinion will ensure that quicker measures to create renewable energy (that will have a more direct benefit for Wales), do go ahead.

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