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We've been waiting a long time for this.

THE people of Barry have been waiting a long time for a definitive answer on the Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA) situation for the Barry incineration plant.

EU law (which the Welsh Government is subject to) states that facilities of this nature require an EIA. Mistakes, misunderstandings and misinterpretation of the law has led to no EIA being conducted at any stage. As the applicant has constructed similar plants elsewhere (some of which have been in receipt of an EIA prior to construction) and claims to be experienced in this area, they should have been aware of the requirement for an EIA.

The Vale council and indeed NRW (acting, as they do, on behalf of Welsh Government), should have been aware of EU and UK legislation regarding EIA's for plants of this nature.

All involved in the failure to carry out an EIA on this plant back in 2015, would be expected by the public to do the right thing, and to correct any initial mistakes in this matter. It is of paramount importance not only to comply with the letter of the law, but the spirit, and stop looking for loopholes. Fundamentally, the granting of an EIA at this juncture would be seen to have the goal of leading to compliance with the Wellbeing and Future Generations Act, and thereby be a start to rebuilding public trust in government, both local and national.

This may go some way towards the people of Barry, and indeed of Wales as a whole, seeing that the Welsh Government have the health, wellbeing and interests of the wider population at heart; even those that cannot or do not vote.

An EIA would give the private enterprise that chose Barry to invest in, and make money from, through both profits and government grants, a chance to prove that their claims of "no harm" to the environment and the population of Barry for 25 years can stand up to scrutiny.

A mere fudge, playing with words and dates to get a face saving result, will only further damage trust in all institutions involved. The Environment Minister's answer to question waq77119 during a Q&A in the Senedd, seems to imply that decision making is at arms length, and those at the top of government are happy to agree with all that has gone wrong previously. The answer given seems to seek to avoid the real issue, which is that an EIA should have been ordered in 2015, and the implications of that failure is the real question left outstanding. The answer also might be seen by some to be consistent with the minister having already taken a view on the EIA question. If this is the case, this could be viewed as decisions being made by the minister and Welsh Government on matters of high public interest, (in the same way as many felt NRW did on the licensing decision) by doing so behind closed doors, in close conjunction with the applicant, whilst leaving the public in the dark.

A review of some description will eventually have to be made to tighten up procedures; in the meantime, a sure sign of political madness is to keep repeating mistakes so as to justify initial mistakes. For the Welsh Assembly Government/NRW to behave in this fashion would be a failure for not only themselves, but also, most importantly, the people they purport to serve.

Fred Phipps-Harkus Barry

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 2, 2018
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