Return of the Barrage

An independent commission is being set up to assess tidal renewable projects in the Severn Estuary, including a barrage which could generate 7% of the UK’s electricity needs.  The commission has been given the go-ahead by the Western Gateway, a cross-border partnership stretching from Swansea in the west to Swindon in the east – covering a population of 4.4 million. The public-private partnership is seen as creating an economic powerhouse on a footing with the more established Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine in England.

The last proposed barrage scheme, from a company called Hafren Power, proposed a 18 kilometre barrage from Lavernock Point in the Vale of Glamorgan to the Brean Peninsula on the English side of the estuary in Somerset. It had little support from then the Cameron Government. However, with the Welsh and UK Government seeking to reach net zero by 2050 – and the recent government agreement between Plaid Cymru and Labour seeking to bring that 15 years forward in Wales – a barrage could now be in a better position to get government backing in terms of energy security and its mitigation against rising levels on both sides of the estuary from climate change.  But it could take 15 years to achieve the potential of up to 7 per cent of the UK’s total energy needs.

Nature and Us Conversation

There seem to be many online consultations and surveys of late but this one from Natural Resources Wales is different.  NRW in collaboration with the Welsh Government has recently launched Nature and Us: a Wales-wide conversation about the future of our natural environment.  The Nature and Us website directs you to the survey and there are webinars too, starting on 23 March. The survey is in two parts, the first of which takes just a few minutes to complete and submit online. The second part provides an opportunity to tell them a bit more about what is important to you and the changes you think Wales needs to make.

Development Plan Delay

MCC planners have written to interested parties to tell them that it will now be late Summer 2022 before a report on options for progressing the Replacement Local Development Plan is presented to the Council for a decision on how to proceed.  This follows major concerns that were raised by Welsh Government officials in response to last summer’s consultation, which were discussed at a special Select Committee meeting in December.

The Welsh Government officials, like several local community organisations in the county, considered that MCC’s proposed level of growth did not conform with policies in Future Wales: the National Plan 2040.

The results of both the first and second calls for Candidate Sites put forward by landowners or developers are now available at Monmouthshire Replacement Local Development Plan Second Call for Candidate Sites Register – Monmouthshire.  Comments on these will not be accepted at this stage; they will be assessed and available to comment at a later stage.

Wetland Reserve Suggested for Llanfoist

Local businessman, Ben Jones, apparently with the support of the Gwent Wildlife Trust, has written to the Abergavenny Chronicle about his proposal for an 80 acre wetland nature reserve on County Council land adjoining the waste transfer site at Llanfoist.  Welsh Water are already interested in the possibility of using the reserve to extra cleanse storm surge water from their treatment plant.  Ben and the Trust are seeking volunteer support initially to persuade MCC to back the plan and eventually to help manage the reserve – contact info@gwentwildlife.org.

Usk Masterplan

On 19 January Monmouthshire County Council’s Cabinet adopted the Usk (& Woodside) Improvement Masterplan jointly commissioned by MCC and Usk Town Council in 2018.  It is available  here.

Monmouthshire Planning Strategy Differences Continue

Welsh Government tells Monmouthshire to cut housing numbers to conform with regional plan | The Planner

This news item from a Royal Town Planning Institute weekly bulletin relates to the difference of interpretation of ‘Future Wales 2040’ between its Welsh Government authors and Monmouthshire CC’s preferred Replacement Local Development Plan strategy.  Several local groups are resisting MCC plans to accelerate housing growth with no assurance of jobs, while developers may point to housing pressure ignored by the Welsh Government.  An MCC scrutiny committee discusses the matter on 14 December.

 

New Eco Literacy Course

Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales is introducing a new Eco Literacy course, Nabod Natur – Nature Wise and is able to offer up to 150 free online training places for community or voluntary groups in Wales that would like to protect and restore our natural environment.  The Nature Wise programme will teach attendees about how our natural environment operates, the threats it faces, and how we as individuals and organisations can all help nature thrive. The course will operate remotely and will be available monthly from October 2021 with a total commitment time of 5-6 hours.

Regarding the free places, they are especially targeting individuals and organisations who are not currently doing environmental work, such as faith groups or those working in the arts or social projects. However, all community and voluntary groups in Wales can sign up for free at: cynnalcymru.com/naturewise-free.

Chepstow Transport Study

Report published into Chepstow traffic and travel – Monmouthshire  – The latest report on the cross-border Chepstow Transport Study recommends a 40mph A48 single carriageway bypass including a bridge over the Wye and active travel and public transport measures to deal with increasing traffic congestion in the town.  A recent Welsh Government freeze on new road-building may prove to be a major obstacle for this much-needed  project to overcome.

New Flood Risk Maps

Natural Resources Wales’ latest flood risk maps can be viewed at Flood Map for Planning (naturalresources.wales)  It accompanies a revised advice note, Technical advice note (TAN) 15: development, flooding and coastal erosion | GOV.WALES, that makes it clear that new developments of homes, the emergency services, schools, and hospitals, must not be located in areas of high flood risk without strong flood defences.  If a local planning authority is minded to approve any scheme against this advice, ministers will be notified and able to decide the application directly.

The new flood map identifies four types of flood zone, with each zone having particular advice in TAN 15 for proposed developments. The zones are based on current risk levels with the addition of allowances for climate change. The map will be updated in May and November each year to reflect the latest modelling and data on flood risks.  For all development in areas of low risk and areas protected by strong flood defences, and for less vulnerable developments in areas at high risk, securing planning permission will be dependent on passing acceptability tests set out in TAN15.

 

Major Set-back for MCC Plan

Several community groups will be pleased to learn that the Welsh Government has taken issue with Monmouthshire County Council’s Preferred Strategy for its Replacement Local Development Plan.  Responding to the recent consultation, WG’s Chief Planner has said that the strategy’s scale of growth is not, as required, in general conformity with Future Wales: The National Development Framework.  The response points out that the strategy proposed almost 5,000 more homes 2018-33 than the government’s mid-range projection, and according to county council figures this would mean no need to allocate any more housing land.

As Monmouthshire’s strategy planned to allocate new land for over 3,600 more homes, the difference between the bodies is large.  Meetings and deliberations are planned before planning officers make recommendations on how the county council should proceed.  The council could defy the WG response and continue on its present course in the hope that the Inspector will eventually agree with them.  But if the Inspector supports the government or a compromise well short of MCC’s plans, there would be an even more embarrassing waste of time and money and a late need to rethink the plan.  The sooner the difference between the bodies is reduced to a reasonable level, the better.

It is noteworthy that Cardiff City Council, at an earlier stage in its new Local Development Plan, is moving towards lower growth despite being a growth area in Future Wales, unlike Monmouthshire.