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The Cardiff Bay Barrage

Updated Thursday, 11th September 2008
Open University sociologist David Goldblatt visited Cardiff to discover how plans for a tidal barrage split the city.

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The arguments

The campaigner

Raoul Bhambral Raoul Bhambral, Friends of the Earth Cymru, says:

"Cardiff Bay Barrage is being built mainly as a means of regenerating the Cardiff Bay area. It will be 1.1 kilometres long and will stretch across the Taff and Ely estuaries. It will also create a 500 acre lake with 'recreational potential'.

"The silt that has been built up over hundreds of years is full of invertebrates that are food for nationally significant populations of dunlin and redshank. It's very likely that the displaced birds will starve and die and this whole site of special scientific interest will be destroyed with full government backing.

"The rivers Taff and Ely have a high nutrient load that they carry down from up-river. Normally all of that is flushed out of the bay with every tide, but once the barrage is closed it's all going to be trapped in the bay. We're expecting algal blooms, midge swarms and Weils disease."

The developer

Michael Boyce Michael Boyce, Cardiff Bay Development Corporation (CBDC), says:

"CBDC is a task force designed to bring an area that was deprived and desolate back to life. For about 15 years a great tract of land in the south of the city has been left derelict after the collapse of traditional industries such as coal, shipping and steel. It is now in desperate need of regeneration.

"We made a judgement to put people before birds. We made a judgement that deprivation, poverty and unemployment were considerably more important than the feeding grounds of a fairly common bird which has feeding grounds throughout the Severn Estuary. Yes, the birds are the casualties – we make no apology for that.

"In the same way that the Victorians built urban parks we're building a water park. We're not building a swimming pool and the water quality is under the control of the Environment Agency. We have water quality standards set by parliament to achieve and we shall achieve those standards. Those standards will be appropriate for a whole range of water based sports which we are determined will be encouraged onto the water.

"We have undertaken the biggest survey of properties ever undertaken in the world, nearly 30,000 properties, both commercial and residential. When the barrage is built we will survey all those properties again and if there is evidence that the construction of the barrage has caused damage them then remedial works will be carried out or compensation awarded."

The resident

Sian Best Sîan Best, Cardiff Residents Against the Barrage (CRAB), says:
"CRAB was set up around 10 years ago when it was first suggested that a barrage be built across the mouth of Cardiff Bay to create an aesthetic centre for the redevelopment of South Cardiff.

"The barrage will impound the rivers Taff and Ely, both of which carry a very high level of sewage. We know that the Environment Agency for Wales is very concerned about the levels of pollutants there will be in the water but they are a monitoring organisation and can't bar the project.

"The barrage is bound to cause changes in ground water levels in the city. The geographical make-up of South Cardiff means that, with the proposed 400 acre lake in the area, there will be tremendous fluctuation in ground water levels. This will increase dampness in properties, cause health problems in the elderly and small children and may contribute to an increase in asthma cases.

"To make the project safe and healthy is going to be an extremely expensive project, year on year, for the foreseeable future."

Cardiff docks


Cardiff on the web

This article was originally published as part of the Open Minds site in 1998; the barrage was finally formally opened in 2008.


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