Cardiff Friends of the Earth Newsletter - Spring 2003

GM-Free Trolley Protest, Brussels

by Raoul Bhambral

Wednesday 9 November was a day of massive Europe-wide protest in Brussels about GM food. The demonstration involved FOE groups from all over Europe bringing GM-Free produce from their countries to present to the European Parliament. The Welsh contingent consisted of Will James, Rachel Roberts and myself. The protest had been organised to coincide with an Environment Council of Ministers’ meeting the week after where traceability and labelling laws for GM produce were to be discussed. FOE Europe was demonstrating in order to show the vast public support behind strong laws that would preserve the choice of individuals whether to eat GM foods or not. Without strong labelling laws, all consumers in Europe would be denied this fundamental choice.

After arriving in Brussels on Wednesday morning at 7:30 am we had a brief break at the scout hall we were staying in, to dump our bags and grab a very small amount of sleep before we were up and on the metro to Central Station for the demo. There were loads of different European flags, with people from Friends of the Earth Sweden (who had travelled for 20 hrs) and Friends of the Earth Croatia (who had travelled for 22 hrs) beginning to decorate several hundred shopping trolleys and fill them up with food.

We had taken some organic fruit and veg from Cardiff’s Riverside Market to the demo, along with a papier mache leek and an inflatable daffodil, both with ‘GM Free Cymru’ written on them, underneath the Welsh flag. The procession began with some brief inspiring speeches and then a samba band and dancers started off down the street, followed by the several hundred trolleys. We rattled them along the cobbled streets of Brussels and made quite a fantastic sight. Multi-couloured and multi-lingual banners and flags marched along the roads, with dancers and jugglers leading, music playing and with stewards handing out information sheets about the protest in various languages. People stopped on the pavements and stared, traffic was halted by bicycle-police, and people waved and gawped out of their office windows. There’s no doubt that Brussels knew we were there, and there in force. It was great to know that so many people felt strongly enough about it to travel across Europe to be there.

Our first stop outside the European Parliament was a rally with some more speeches while the samba band had a little break. I missed most of this as I did a brief radio interview for BBC Radio Wales. Later, we carried on to the Council building where the Environment Ministers would meet to discuss the legislation (on 17th October). More speakers closed the day, with lots of cheering, hooting and whistling at the faceless building of democracy we’d stopped in front of. We then collected various items of food from each of the trolleys into a hamper that was accepted by a Dutch representative of the European Parliament who assured us he would get the hamper and our messages to the Ministers. The Welsh contribution was Welsh Cakes, a Welsh organic ginger cake, some organic carrots and a gigantic organic apple.

After all that fun we were quite wiped out but exhilarated! We had a little visit to the Friends of the Earth Europe office, where Will and I did mini voxpop interviews, destined for the web. And then there was the party! Any remaining food had been cooked for us all by Rampenplan, a mobile organic catering organisation, and was heartily devoured. A bit of a dance, plenty of chat and drink before we all stumbled back to our accommodation to catch some well earned kip. The next day consisted purely of getting back to London, and then the three of us travelled on to Cardiff.

The People of Cardiff vs. the Pennsylvania Power and Light Corp.

By Richard Cowie

Llanishen and Lisvane reservoirs are situated in north-east Cardiff, four miles from the city centre. They are an important site for wintering wildfowl, and many rare species of rare wild flowers, fungi and animals can be found in the surrounding un-improved grasslands. At present, the reservoirs are a tranquil oasis in a busy city, but all that may be about to change.

Immediately to the NE of the reservoirs, Cardiff Council has plans to build 4,000 houses on a green-field site. Even more damaging is a planning application submitted by Hyder Industrial Group to drain 80% of Llanishen reservoir and build 346 houses and apartments on the site. Hyder Industrial is a subsidiary of Western Power Distribution, itself a subsidiary of a multi-national power conglomerate – the Pennsylvania Power and Light Corporation (PPL).

The Reservoir Action Group (RAG) which was formed a year ago does not believe this scheme is good for wildlife. Introducing high-density housing, 1000 people and 500 cars onto a small, environmentally sensitive site is a recipe for disaster. Much of the existing wildlife will be subject to hugely increased disturbance and most of the grasslands surrounding Llanishen reservoir will be destroyed. These grasslands are home to 21 species of fungi, plants and animals on the Local Bio-diversity Action Plan and 35 species on the Cardiff red data list. They also contain a large population of grass snakes and the only known Cardiff colony of glow-worms.

RAG has proposed the establishment of a green wedge (see map), stretching from Roath Park to the north of the M4. This would include the reservoirs and would link together 10 sites of nature conservation importance. The wedge would also enable the development of sustainable, green transport links (footpaths and cycle tracks) between the NE suburbs and the city centre.

Cardiff Friends of the Earth have agreed to support RAG in its campaign to defeat the planning application at Llanishen reservoir and to fight for the establishment of a North East Cardiff Green Wedge.

Planning in Cardiff – East Bay Link Road and new housing update

By Christian Baars

In the last couple of months we replied to two applications for large developments in Cardiff. The first reply concerned an outline planning application by Cardiff County Council (CCC) to develop an area of 21.5 hectares of land located between Trowbridge Road and Hendre Road, St Mellons, for housing. The site is a greenfield site and we objected to the application for the following reasons:

  • new developments on greenfield sites should only be an option if there are no alternative sites (alternative sites have not been considered by CCC)
  • the site is not allocated for development in any existing adopted plans
  • the Environmental Impact Assessment comes to the conclusion that both the construction phase and the operation phase would have negative impacts on the nearby Gwent Levels SSSI.

The second “development” is in a totally different league and would have an even greater impact if realised: the proposed Eastern Bay Link road, connecting the A48 from the Llanedeyrn interchange to the Butetown Link/Central Link inter-change (next to the ASW steel plant). The plans include the construction of a dual carriageway of nearly 7km length along the foreshore, partly running on an embankment 18 metres high and in parts on two viaducts. Although we suggested an alternative route we opposed the application for preliminary works that would include construction of the embankments for the following reasons:

  • it would have a negative impact on whole host of local, regional, European and international conservation areas
  • no Environmental Impact Assessment (which is a legal requirement) has been undertaken
  • the road was designed 25 years ago. During this time there have been many changes to transport policy. It is now accepted that “predict and provide” generates more traffic and is thus totally outdated.

We suggested an alternative route which follows the existing Rover Way; this route would have nowhere near the impact on conservation areas and would have the pleasant side effect of costing a fraction of the currently proposed route – this means that less public money would be wasted on yet another road and could be spent on a decent public transport system.