Cardiff Friends of the Earth Newsletter - Autumn 1998

Gwent 2020 Alliance

The following article is taken from the Western Mail.

The development boom which has seen part of the country earmarked for a succession of multi-million pound projects has prompted environmentalists to form a new united front.

The Gwent 2020 Alliance has been established in response to the growing number of large-scale developments currently under discussion in south-east wales.

Schemes ranging from the M4 Relief Road, £1bn Severnside International Airport, and Legend Court Theme Park promise to create tens of thousands of jobs and generate millions of pounds for the local economy.

But there is increasing concern that the area will not be able to sustain so many massive projects.

In recent months support has increased for the designation of official green-belt areas, particularly in and around Newport, Cwmbran and Pontypool, where land for thousands of homes has been identified by the local authorities.

Friends of the Earth Cymru has organised a gathering of groups that are fighting development plans to form an alliance.

It's spokesman Julian Rosser said the new body would be campaigning for a sustainable future for south-east Wales.

"We are hereby giving notice to greedy developers, opencast mining companies, road builders and anyone else who wants to pollute the environment, rip up our countryside, or destroy our towns" he said.

"Although the threats faced by communities in this area are diverse, the fact that these groups are combining shows we recognise that they are all connected."

The alliance includes Cardiff Friends of the Earth and has four main aims:

  • To generate public debate on the future of south-east Wales
  • To unite the local groups campaigning on similar issues
  • To campaign for official green-belts
  • To show that development can be positive and to propose alternative solutions to current problems.

The problems currently affecting both south-east Wales and the rest of the country range from increasing car use and road building, to green-field housing development and threats to Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Mr Rosser said members of the alliance recognised that one of the greatest hurdles they faced was the conflicting economic and social demands that are being placed on south-east Wales.

But he said he believed that creating a united front would enable concerned groups to campaign more effectively.

"Instead of groups fighting their own corners we would be able to exert far more pressure together."

"We need to get everybody involved in the planning process, not just those interested groups."

"We have to get everybody thinking about what south-east Wales will be like in 2020."

Although many of the projects are at an advanced stage - Newport County Borough Council meets at the end of this month to discuss its controversial planning blueprint, and a public enquiry begins next year into the dualling of the Heads of the Valleys Road - the alliance says it is not to late to prevent some schemes.

"Even though these projects are proceeding through the system it is still possible to stop them", said Mr Rosser. "For example, the Salisbury By-pass was brought to a halt at an advanced stage by a change in Government policy."

Designation of official green-belts is likely to become one of the new alliance's priority projects.

Call for railway reopening

Cardiff Friends of the Earth are calling for the reopening of passenger services to Rhoose. They accuse the Vale of Glamorgan Council of acting like dinosaurs by risking an environmental nightmare. In the light of the Welsh Office document 'Transporting Wales into the Future', Cardiff Friends of the Earth call on the Vale of Glamorgan Council to reconsider its plan to build the Cardiff Airport Link Road.

Phil Ward, Chair of Cardiff Friends of the Earth, says "Their current Airport Link Road plans are a potential environmental and traffic disaster, being fundamentally against modern sustainable development practise".

The Vale's current plans would:

  • Encourage car use and development at Culverhouse Cross;
  • Slash though Wenvoe Valley, instead of conserving the countryside for agriculture and leisure use
  • Increase air pollution above Government standards
  • Increase traffic noise and congestion
  • Increase accidents on the confusing multi-lane interchanges
  • Worsen noise and pollution at a large number of homes on The Sanctury, Cyntwell, and Brooklands Estates.

The Barry and Cardiff Friends of the Earth groups call for a radical re-think to this outdated plan. We point to a golden opportunity to invest in modern integrated transport by reopening Rhoose Railway Station, and connecting it to Cardiff Airport using a shuttle bus. Rhoose could be served easily by extending some of the existing services to Barry Town Station.

The capital cost of this would be tiny, under one percent of the cost of the airport highway scheme according to figures given by the Railway Development Society, and it could be in place in time for next year's Rugby World Cup.

A minimal investment in infrastructure would provide long-term benefits to the people of Wales as well as to international visitors.

FoE Cymru's study Cardiff Airport Fantasy proposes a minimal cost scheme. Constructing Rhoose Station with at lease one platform (for approximately £0.3m) and diverting alternate Barry trains to terminate and reverse there, rather than doing so at Barry Island Station as at present.

The trip from Barry Town station to Rhoose and back would take around 20 to 25 minutes, allowing plenty of time for interleaving the occasional freight train on the route.

This proposed development should be judged in the light of increasing air travel, the Government's much-publicised Transport White Paper, and the Road Traffic Reduction Acts.

There is also the need to preserve the remaining green fields in the Newport to Barry coastal strip from 'ribbon development'. The local authorities concerned should pay attention to the letter of 20 June from Welsh Office Environment Minister, Win Griffiths, to local authorities regarding the potential designation of green belts in Wales.

Get involved

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Cardiff Friends of the Earth is affiliated to national Friends of the Earth, but is a separate organisation with its own membership.