Cardiff Friends of the Earth Newsletter - Autumn 1997

Thanks Ron

It was not so much the fact of Ron Davies' decision to complete the Cardiff Bay Barrage as the manner, and speed of it, that came as such a surprise. A Parliamentary Answer slipped out late on Friday 4 July which nobody seemed to notice until the following Monday morning.

Oddly enough, Ron Davies had been in Cardiff on Thursday 3 July telling Labour Party members how much he believed in open government and public participation.

There was no consultation, there was no room for compromise. A 'review' had been conducted privately in the Welsh Office between the Secretary of State and his officials.

The reaction was swift. Charles Secrett, Director of Friends of the Earth commented, "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."

The Press conference booked for 11 July at which a host of groups was to call for Ron Davies to review the barrage was hastily rearranged. Representatives of Friends of the Earth, Glamorgan and Gwent Wildlife Trusts, WWF, RSPB, Cardiff Residents against the Barrage, and the Severn Estuary Conservation Group were joined by Cardiff MPs Rhodri and Julie Morgan in criticising the decision and calling for a full, independent and open review of matters related to the barrage.

The speakers and audience moved on to the Welsh Office where we were met by Ron Davies who announced his willingness to hold a meeting at which the organisations present can meet his officials to hear the advice he received. We will also have the opportunity to put questions.

It would have displayed a more genuine commitment to open government if that offer had been made before the announcement.

We've changed our minds...

"I now call upon the UK Government for speedy designation of the whole inter-tidal area of the Severn Estuary as a Special Protection Area under the European Wild Birds Directive..." Win Griffiths MP signing the Friends of the Earth Severn Estuary Declaration, September 1992.

"The birds certainly do not want the mudflats to be removed. If they had a voice they would be here this evening putting their case. Unfortunately they are not able to do so. We must make a small contribution on their behalf." Win Griffiths MP, House of Commons, 20 October 1992.

"A decision as to the boundaries of the Severn Estuary Special Protection Area was taken in 1991 and my Right Honourable friend has no plans to reconsider the extent of that area." Win Griffiths MP, Welsh Office Minister, House of Commons, 15 July 1997.

"I have never believed the barrage will achieve the things that it is said it will achieve, and if at all possible, the contract will be cancelled." Ron Davies MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Western Mail, 2 November 1994.

"I have undertaken a thorough review of the Cardiff Bay Barrage... I have concluded that the barrage should be completed." Ron Davies MP, Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Answer, 4 July 1997.

"I accept too,that there would be financial savings as well if further work on the project was suspended and ongoing maintenance problems were avoided." Ron Davies, letter to Friends of the Earth Cymru, 10 July 1997.

"It wasn't a decision on my part to allow the continuation of the barrage because the barrage is continuing." Ron Davies MP, Secretary of State for Wales, on Welsh Office steps, 11 July 1997.

Nycomed Amersham is trite about Tritium

By Phil Pinder

Nycomed Amersham make world renowned radiochamicals for use in medicine and science. Their site at Forest Farm in Whitchurch provides important technical employment for people from Cardiff. The site also discharges large amounts of radioactive tritium into water and air in Cardiff. They are the second biggest emitter of airborne tritium in the UK.

Historically it was considered that tritium was relatively harmless, but new knowledge questions this. Tritium outside the body is harmless, but once it is ingested and incorporated into tissues it can cause damage. Tritium in decaying, releases only a low level of energy, there is enough energy, however, to cause localized damage within single cells. If the damage occurs to DNA, or its precursors, there is potential for the formation of mutations and the disease states arising from this. The risk is hard to quantify accurately, but it is now thought that the established risk assessments are too low and should be modified accordingly. Nycomed Amersham could, and should, be minimising their emissions now.

Nycomed Amersham wants to bring 285 drums of radioactive waste to store on its Cardiff site. There store was supposed to be temporary for waste produced on site. The drums are to be transported from Nycomed Amersham's site at Harwell and contain long-term waste that was originally created in Cardiff and some extra produced at Harwell.

Friends of the Earth believe that Nycomed Amersham should apply for planning permission to change the site to long-term storage. This should go through the full assessment and public consultation procedures. A public enquiry should cover all the issues of radioactive waste discharges to the air, sewer, and the River Taff, as well as storage of nuclear waste on-site. This is an issue that concerns the whole of Cardiff and the surrounding areas.

This issue not only highlights the need to bring large multi-nationals to book over their blatant disregard for the feelings and health of local communities, it also has consequences for the whole of the UK in terms of how we handle and store radioactive waste.

You can be sure of (S)hell

By Phil Ward

On Tuesday 15 July a 10 foot high Shell Demon made its way through Cardiff city centre to highlight Shell's role in increasing climate change through the burning of fossil fuels. The company is trying to block international attempts to agree targets on climate change gas emissions. Shell is active are active members of a powerful lobbying group called the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), along with Ford and Esso, who are trying to thwart an agreement to prevent climate change as this would threaten their profits.

After a photo call at Shell Garage in Newport Road and Demon was well received walking down Queen Street as members of Cardiff Friends of the Earth distributed leaflets urging people to write to Shell about their role in the GCC.

The stunt was great fun. Many thank to all of those who took part, particularly Tom who brought the costume and Phil Hurst who had to suffer inside it.

News from the backyard

Green belts<.h3>

On 23 June, just weeks after the launch of the Cardiff 20:20 campaign, Welsh Planning Minister Win Griffiths wrote to councils in Wales urging them to create green belts to prevent urban sprawl. Mr Griffiths highlighted the Cardiff to Newport stretch as being particularly susceptible to encroaching urban development.

"There are areas where green belts could well be an effective means of preventing urban sprawl and keeping land open permanently" he wrote. A Cardiff Friends of the Earth spokesperson commented, "If the Welsh Office is genuinely concerned about protecting the countryside it will scrap plans for the M4 Relief Road." Never happy are we?

Roads

On 3 July, just weeks after Cardiff Friend's of the Earth's ungrateful response to the green belt announcement, Ron Davies, Secretary of State for Wales, announced a review of the trunk roads programme in Wales. Mr Davies said: "I intend to set the strategic review of the trunk roads programme in Wales for a balanced, integrated transport policy for the Principality." He then rushed back to Wales to speak to Labour Party members about devolution, managing in the excitement, to block the entrance to Transport House car park with his car. It is not clear if this was the start of a direct action campaign.

Cardiff 20:20

Cardiff Friends of the Earth is putting the finishing touches to the group's response to Cardiff County Council's Unitary Development Plan Issues Document. It isn't too late for you to have your say. The deadline for responses has been extended to the end of August. This is your chance to contribute to planning the future of Cardiff.