West Wales News Review

Economy, environment, sustainability

Archive for the category “Climate”

Rural Homes Set To Remain Disadvantaged After Heating Decarbonisation

Opinion: Home heating accounts for 14% of the UK’s carbon emissions — so natural gas has to be phased out. Hydrogen is a possible future replacement for properties connected to the gas grid, but rural properties currently relying on oil or liquefied petroleum gas are likely to remain heating Cinderellas.

Replacing 22.5 million gas central heating boilers across the UK well before 2050, as we need to do to meet current climate change commitments, has a huge price tag. Renewables-powered heating systems are currently much more expensive than boilers heated by natural gas (well, not so natural, but it sounded such a clean product). The Committee on Climate Change has forecast a switch-over cost of £28 billion a year by 2050.

Living off the gas grid means that here in rural Wales we could not have joined the 82% of UK households with mains gas central heating (although the Energy Performance Certificate for an off-grid house that I know of states that there is mains gas central heating, a mistaken or deliberately untrue ‘fact’ – it’s important to check those certificates!).

By early 2019 it was time to replace an ancient oil boiler, which sounded like an aeroplane taking off into a rumbling thunderstorm. As well as the need to slash fossil fuel use, there was the immediate practical problem that no one’s insurance – not the household policy, not the delivery firm’s policy – would cover taking the hose from the tanker through the house to the oil tank behind.

The garden was not large enough for a ground source heat pump system with pipes in horizontal trenches (you need at least half an acre, I am told) and even more to the point, was inaccessible to the equipment needed to excavate trenches, or to dig a borehole for a vertical installation. Ground source heat pump installations are super-expensive, from above £10,000 to over £20,000 for the pump and installation, plus thousands more for the groundworks. They qualify for the Westminster Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive, which in theory could pay the majority of costs over seven years, but the homeowner or landlord has to find the money upfront first.

In the end we settled on an air source heat pump. This is costing between £8,000 and £9,000 including new, larger radiators, and for which we might receive the Renewable Heat Incentive (if we can tick all the eligibility boxes). The garden is wide enough, fortunately, because in Wales the pump units have to be at least three metres from boundaries to qualify as permitted development (in England, it’s only one metre).

Bearing these costs in mind, it is unsettling to know that the Renewable Heat Incentive closes to new applicants on April 1st 2021, and no replacement scheme has been announced. The current scheme covers ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps, biomass boilers and biomass pellet stoves, and flat plate and evacuated tube solar thermal panels.

Maybe the government is hoping that hydrogen fuel cell boilers will soon become available, and at lower cost than heat pumps. Manufacturers are developing such boilers: in June 2019, Dutch group BDR Thermea installed what it claimed as the world’s first hydrogen-powered domestic boiler in a trial project in Rozenburg, the Netherlands. In theory, hydrogen boilers could use much of the same infrastructure as gas boilers, and households would not have to change all their pipework and radiators. The Government’s decision to ban gas boilers in new homes from 2025 should, at the very least, boost interest in hydrogen systems.

But now that the UK has left the EU, it will be fascinating to see if British firms can compete with European enterprises to perfect hydrogen home heating.

Even if they can, a hydrogen system taking over gas infrastructure will not reach the rural areas where there is no gas grid. Hard-to-heat rural homes would be disadvantaged yet again.



Rewilding for Fewer Floods

The Marlais thunders and foams through Llansawel after heavy rains 

Opinion: We must take action to limit damaging floods

Last night in Llansawel a drain, overloaded after torrential rain, flooded houses. The fire and rescue service arrived from Llandovery as fast as they could, given near-impassable sections of road (hats off to them), and pumped out the water. The houses now have to dry out.

We can’t afford repeated flooding, either as individuals or communities.

But we can’t stop the water coming. As the surface of our planet heats up, weather systems become more unstable, and weather events are more severe. Longer droughts, more violent storms. Defending one village or town from rising waters just displaces the water to somewhere else. Flood water scours roads, loosens tree roots, causes landslips, all creating inconvenience and escalating repair costs

Two questions:

  • Who decides what flood measures need to be introduced?
  • Who pays for them?

We need major land use changes, but the people most at risk of flooding in urban areas are unlikely to own the land from which the water flows. Instead of public money flowing to landowners according to how many acres they own, as in the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, paying landowners for environmental services, such as the rewilding advocated by George Monbiot, seems a more promising approach. Rewilding results in naturally regenerating ecosystems with water-holding capacity — more trees, scrub, bogs and meadows  – and in addition small reservoirs slow rain run-off. The reservoirs also come into their own during droughts. Who pays? A combination of government and landowners?

Building codes should change too. Doors and windows higher off the ground, flood guards, ramps for disabled access, electrical sockets at waist height, porous parking areas, will all help. Who pays? Government at all levels has to get involved, including community and parish councils, which will probably need to re-prioritise spending in favour of resilience.

Flood barriers like this are common in coastal areas of County Cork, Ireland. 

Insurance? Here’s to the continuation of Flood Re, the last-resort provider of flood cover in the UK, but prevention measures are preferable to prolonged clean-ups and people excluded from their homes for months on end. In any case, Flood Re is due to end in 2039, to be replaced with an open market in which flood insurance may be unaffordable for millions of people. At five year intervals until then, premiums will be reviewed and almost certainly increased, to accustom the long-suffering public to free-enterprise prices.

Unless government policy changes, that is.

And all the time that we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the fragile atmosphere, weather emergencies will become more dramatic and harder to survive.


Controversial Plan for Coal Mining Expansion at Llandybie


‘Leave it in the ground’ is the message from members of the public who are objecting to Bryn Bach Coal’s plans to mine 110,000 tonnes of anthracite from an extension to their existing opencast mine in Llandybie, between Ammanford and Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire.

By January 3rd 2020, 26 people had contacted Carmarthenshire County Council’s planning department to oppose the plan for opencast mining on 10 hectares (25 acres), although in contrast Llandybie Community Council is strongly in favour, their clerk Stuart Griffith commenting that having “taken due regard of the current well run mining operation, local employment opportunities, the current and ongoing financial support to local organisations, and the eco-friendly use of the mined coal, the application is supported and the council recommends that planning permission is granted.”

Community councillor Anthony Davies wrote an individual note of support, pointing out that Bryn Bach had produced coal at Glan Lash, Llandybie since 2012 without any problems, and that “the public have not been aware that any work has gone on”.

Cllr Davies stated that 11 full-time jobs would be created, plus 40 spin-off jobs; that in addition the firm gives £5,000 a year to local causes; and that 75% of the coal will not be burnt. “I fully support this application,” he said.

Local councillors’ approval is related to benefits they see for people in Llandybie, although objectors view coal mining as a health hazard, and burning coal as a big contributor to global warming. Carmarthenshire County Council has declared a climate emergency, which would appear to rule out new mining operations. Bryn Bach’s application, though, says that 75% of the coal will not be burnt, up from a figure of 50% previously suggested, because it will colour bricks and be incorporated in filter beds for water purification. Even so, 25% would be sold for domestic heating, and it would scarcely be possible for the council to insist on the exact quantity of coal to be sold into non-burning markets.

The proposed new mining area is slightly closer to Llandybie village than the existing field. Eight hectares would be mined, and two hectares used for storing earth removed from the coal seams. About 2.5 hectares of woodland would have to be felled.

The apocalyptic wildfires in a hotter and hotter Australia, where the current government want to expand coal mining, are a dramatic warning about the awful impacts of climate change. Dr Chris Vernon, from Whitland, calculated the amount of carbon dioxide that would be produced from burning 55,000 tonnes of coal, half the expected total from the new mine, as 185,000 tonnes. This would be about one tonne for each inhabitant of Carmarthenshire. More graphically, 185,000 tonnes of CO2 would be equivalent to driving more than 1.5 billion kilometres, or to the moon and back almost 1,950 times. Given that Bryn Bach Coal proposes that only 25% of the total would be burnt, according to Dr Vernon’s calculation there would be about 92,500 tonnes of CO2, representing emissions from driving 750 million kilometres, nearly a thousand times to and from the moon.

If 55,000 tonnes of coal were burnt, “this single planning decision would increase Carmarthenshire’s CO2 emissions per capita, likely by more than ALL climate mitigation actions undertaken by the local authority in recent years,” Dr Vernon commented.

Linda Screen from The Rhos, also opposing the application, told the council’s planning department that as a qualified landscape architect and environmentalist, she could confirm that “the environmental impact from this proposal which covers 10 hectares is devastating in terms of biodiversity, environmental sustainability, pollution and climate, and is impossible to remediate in any satisfactory way without long lasting and possibly catastrophic environmental impacts.”

Many other objectors cited climate change fears and proposed that coal should be left under the ground.

Ms Screen also criticised the Environmental Impact Assessment submitted by Bryn Bach Coal for failing to “measure or report on the carbon sequestration value of the coal if left in situ”. This value would provide “the baseline required to inform any calculations for the carbon offset requirements of this development and therefore the carbon mitigation requirement that the company must meet”.

Bryn Bach Coal Ltd, owned by Christopher James and Julian Morris, is a small, successful company with shareholders’ funds of £1.143 million at March 31st 2019, according to data at Companies House.

The application, reference number E/39917, was registered on December 5th 2019, and should come before the county council’s planning committee, but as yet no date has been set.



News + Opinion: ‘Fundamental Errors’ in Wales’ National Development Framework

Proposals ‘unlawful’ because they fail to treat climate change seriously enough

Wales’ proposals for a ‘National Development Framework’ (NDF)[i] have made several environmentalists shake their heads in disbelief. The reason? They do not think the framework takes climate change seriously.

The Free Range Action Network, a group supported by The Greenhouse Environmental Fundraising Group in Carmarthenshire, commissioned Mobbs’ Environmental Investigations and Research to critique the proposed National Development Framework.[ii] Author Paul Mobbs concluded: “The National Development Framework 2020-2040 report contains fundamental errors which render, in our view, the strategy chosen unlawful – because it violates the duty on the Welsh Government to implement ‘sustainable development’, and because the strategy cannot deliver the legally-binding requirements of the Climate Change Act 2008.” (p.15)

Aircraft trails across the sky, damaging Earth’s atmosphere

As Greta Thunberg stated during last week’s foot-dragging United Nations climate change conference in Madrid, “The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when in fact almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR.”[iii]

In Wales we have the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 and the Environment Act 2016, as well as the UK’s Climate Change Act 2008, which set a 2050 target for greenhouse gas emissions to be 80 per cent below 1990 levels. The Environment (Wales) Act set out a similar ambition, while the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act tries to balance resource conservation and emission reductions with economic growth and greater wealth, without showing how this unlikely outcome could ever be achieved.

The NDF does not convey any sense of climate emergency, although it does mention decarbonisation, as in this extract from p.60 of the consultation document: “It is vital the region [Mid and West Wales] plays its role in decarbonising society and supports the realisation of renewable energy. There is strong potential for wind, tidal and solar energy generation and development plans should provide a framework for generation and associated infrastructure.”

‘Renewable energy’ here is synonymous with ELECTRICITY, but there are unaddressed problems arising from a switch to electricity, particularly for transport. Paul Mobbs quotes a panel assembled by the Natural History Museum[iv] as writing: “To replace all UK-based vehicles today with electric vehicles (not including the LGV and HGV fleets) would take 207,900 tonnes cobalt, 264,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate (LCE), at least 7,200 tonnes of neodymium and dysprosium, in addition to 2,362,500 tonnes copper. This represents, just under two times the total annual world cobalt production, nearly the entire world production of neodymium, three quarters the world’s lithium production and at least half of the world’s copper production during 2018.” Not exactly an equitable distribution of resources, and it is not at all clear how the UK could commandeer such colossal proportions of world output!

The final proposed outcome of the NDF, outcome no.11, states reasonably enough that “The challenges of climate change demand urgent action on carbon emissions and the planning system must help Wales lead the way in promoting and delivering a competitive, sustainable decarbonised society. Decarbonisation and renewable energy commitments and targets will be treated as opportunities to build a more resilient and equitable low-carbon economy, develop clean and efficient transport infrastructure, improve public health and generate skilled jobs in new sectors.” (p.21).

The Mobbs report counters: “Does the NDF contain a framework to reduce carbon emissions, without, for example, excavating large areas of open moorland to deliver biomass or wind energy projects? No – the NDF contains no set of policies commensurate with dealing with the declared ‘climate emergency’. There is no mechanism because those chosen – from a large roll-out of wind power to electric cars – are not viable within the terms of the strategy itself. The resources do not exist to efficiently build those projects.” (p.12)

Essentially, the NDF proposes a shift from fossil-fuel power to power from renewable energy technologies, overlooking the very large but unquantified consumption of resources needed for the switch to happen. New infrastructure requires cement, steel, aggregates, rare minerals and much more, transported over long distances and transformed by energy-intensive industrial processes.

The Mobbs’ analysis (p.13) is this: “The reality is that, in a cost-constrained world, what matters is achieving those things which reduce carbon by the greatest amount for the least cost. That is not necessarily the production of more ‘green energy’. ….If we look at the development options which reduce carbon in terms of their relative costs or savings, there are many options which produce a better effect than green energy – most specifically, reducing demand. The NDF is silent on many aspects of those alternatives.”

Reducing demand, or making do with less, is rarely heard in the political lexicon, but it has to be an integral part of a plan for the next 20 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its stark ’12 years’ warning over a year ago, at the start of October 2018,[v] so now we have less than 11 years to act, unless we are willing to face more extreme, dangerous weather and faster rising sea levels, flooding coastal populations. The IPCC said that to limit warming to 2 degrees C, the CO2 emissions would have to drop 20 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030 and hit zero by 2075. Capping warming at 1.5 degrees C means net anthropogenic CO2 emissions must decline by 45 per cent in the next 12 years (now less than 11) and fall to zero by 2050, requiring deep emissions cuts in every sector on an unprecedented scale.

Urgency is absent from the NDF proposals, which do not even whisper that we have to consume considerably LESS.

Britain agreed to a target of achieving ‘net zero’ by 2050. At the half-way point between 1990 and 2050, there has been a nominal reduction of 40 per cent[vi], achieved by switching away from the most polluting fuels in power stations and by continuing the process of offshoring manufacturing, so that the emissions are other countries’ problems (but still add to the global totals).

Emissions from aviation and shipping are excluded from Wales’, and the UK’s, reduction obligations. So why not expand Cardiff Airport? Import more by sea? Leaving out these important transport categories supports the illusion that we are making much more progress towards climate targets than we are in reality.

The NDF is predicated on hope that human ingenuity will come to our rescue in time, and so until then life can continue as normal and, give or take a bit of wealth redistribution, we can become more and more prosperous.

As Greta Thunberg said to the assembled dignitaries in Madrid, that’s just creative public relations.

[i] National Development Framework 2020-2040 Consultation Draft: 7 August – 1 November 2019, Welsh Government

[ii] A Response to the Welsh Government’s ‘National Development Framework 2020-2040’, by Paul Mobbs, Mobbs’ Environmental Investigations and Research, November 2019.

[iii] Greta Thunberg’s speech to COP 25, Madrid, December 11 2019, on YouTube.

[iv] ‘Leading scientists set out resource challenge of meeting net zero emissions in the UK by 2050’, Natural History Museum, 5th June 2019. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/press-office/pressreleases/leading-scientists-set-out-resource-challenge-of-meeting-netzer.html

[v] Summary in IPCC Global Warming Special Report 2018 | What does it actually mean?https://www.coolearth.org/2018/10/ipcc-report-2/

[vi] Updated energy and emissions projections 2018, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, April 2019. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/updated-energyand-emissions-projections-2018



News: Talley Targets Climate Change with Ambitious Green Scheme

The award of more than half a million pounds to the neighbouring small Carmarthenshire villages of Talley and Cwmdu promises to enable major environmental improvements and to help a new green economy to take root.

Community woodland owned by Talley village, at the heart of an environmental scheme which has attracted EU funding


The £520,000 grant, announced in late April 2019, is from the EU-funded Rural Development Programme for 2014-2020. This programme, not yet closed, is the final opportunity for the UK to participate unless Brexit is reversed.

Talley Community Amenity Association (TCAA) submitted a carefully researched and detailed application for the funds, which are administered by the Welsh Government and dedicated to rural viability, sustainability and resilience.

The entrance to Talley Woodlands

The grant will largely fund a £560,000  sustainable management project called Local LAND (Live Actively, Nurture Diversity), and includes two part-time jobs for a Project Co-ordinator and an Engagement Officer, for three years between July 2019 and July 2022.

The TCAA, a charitable company limited by guarantee, has nine trustees drawn from Talley and the nearby village of Cwmdu, who have put a huge effort into attaining the grant. The talented group includes Linda Tame as chair and Angela Hastilow as treasurer.

Linda Tame is a smallholder who, with husband Ian, raises Llanwenog sheep and Shetland cattle, and welcomes visitors to a holiday cottage. Linda has a background as a college lecturer in agricultural and countryside topics, and in rural and out-of-school education for disaffected teenagers. Angela Hastilow runs a saddlery firm and is also a trainee saddle maker. Two Talley-based advisers, Catherine Nakielny and Rhian Corcoran, are in the team. Catherine works with Farming Connect, and as a Nuffield scholar studied methane emissions from sheep production. Rhian is an environmental manager now specialising in sustainable rural and community development.

The ruined Talley Abbey, near the entrance to the land managed by TCAA

The multiple aims of the project should interact with each other, to create a countryside more resilient to climate change and kinder to wildlife, while also making public access easier, and teaching country craft skills. A 24-hectare (59-acre) expanse of land called Talley Woodlands, owned by Talley village and managed by TCAA, is at the heart of the plans. This land, on a slope rising to the west of the village, would have better public access and an education and community centre. On this land, and on 800 hectares (nearly 2,000 acres) of surrounding land owned mainly by farmers, water storage and new planting will slow run-off during downpours, helping to prevent flooding. Wildflower meadows, variegated grassland leys, managed woodland and newly planted trees, would create more diverse habitats for wildlife and protect soils. Watercourses would become wildlife corridors.

A new green brand for local businesses, and increased public awareness of Talley and Cwmdu and their importance in climate change adaptations, should reinforce each other. There would be a focus on bilingualism, better signage for walking routes, a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk, benches sited to suit older walkers, a programme for education in traditional skills like hedge-laying, coppicing, orchard management and basket making, a compost toilet, and other changes to bring Talley to the forefront of planning for ecological resilience. A boost in visitors and students should drive increased revenues for local food, craft and tourism businesses especially.

This terrace in Cwmdu, owned by the National Trust, includes an inn and a shop with Post Office

Around half of the expenditure would be devoted to land management. Community facilities would take a quarter, with technical support, professional surveys and monitoring, staff costs and administration accounting for the remaining quarter.

Several organisations, including Natural Resources Wales and the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, are already collaborating on this scheme. Talley School, a fortunate survivor of decades of rural school closures and with more pupils now than five years ago, is also participating.


One Flight to New York Burns Our Annual Personal Carbon Budget

Are you annoyed at appalling weather but don’t think it’s due to climate change? Do you cheer yourself up after Christmas by planning an exotic long-haul holiday?

I know people who say “All the time I can fly, I will,” on the basis that climate change is nothing to do with us, and if planes are going anyway, what’s the harm in getting on board?

Flying is, though, a huge contributor to our carbon footprint, about one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions) for every FOUR HOURS. So if you are a family of five on the 8 hour 15 minute flight from London to New York, total CO2-equivalent emissions are 10.31 tonnes. If you all come back, 20.62 tonnes – over 4.12 tonnes each!

The sustainable level per person PER YEAR is about 1.5 tonnes. That’s a little bit more than the average for people in India.

The lifestyle changes we need to make are so out of kilter with dominant cultural norms as to seem extreme.  I think it’s extreme not to make changes, but although I do not fly, my progress towards a low carbon footprint is slow.

My footprint, according to the informative carbonindependent.org*, is 8.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. This is substantially less than the UK average of over 13 tonnes, but it’s still vastly more than 1.5 tonnes. To reach that, I would have to go without my economical (55-60mpg) almost 12-year-old Fiat (1.45 tonnes). Electric car? Currently not practical ten miles from the nearest town, due to lack of charging points.

No more new purchases of anything other than food (saving 2.19 tonnes). Become a vegan (save a further quarter of a tonne). If I did all this, and expanded fruit and vegetable production in the garden, I would still be emitting over 4.5 tonnes a year, and I wouldn’t be leaving the village much, just occasionally by bus. And bus services are vulnerable to further cuts in public subsidies.

The big problem for our household is heating, the bulk of my remaining emissions. The house began as a small row of tiny single-storey stone cottages. An upper storey of brick was added, and then a kitchen and bathroom two-floor extension of rendered block. The roof is tiled, and the heating is bulk LPG (liquefied petroleum gas). Fossil fuel. The thermostat is set on 17 degrees, which is not exactly tropical, but it really needs to be set lower still.

The fossil fuel for heating will have to go before I come anywhere near a sustainable level of emissions, but that change is likely to alarm economists who push for economic growth.  Not buying new stuff, not travelling, not flying, has minimal impact on economic growth if it’s just me, but the warming world requires us all to make similar reductions.

If we are all buying less, consuming less, we are creating more unemployment. At least, we are if we opt to keep the present economic model (which requires growth to function). So we are in a real bind. Just think what we have monetised to create the illusion of continuing economic growth — caring for other people’s children and elderly relatives, and including estimates for prostitution and drug trafficking  in national accounts, for example.

In a de-growth world there would still be more than enough work for everyone – such as in nursing, teaching, caring, farming, repairing, inventing – but the majority of these activities do not generate profits. There are a number of partial and local answers to this, including barter, time banking and local currencies, but no national or international frameworks into which they can fit.

Economics as usual means we will be incapable of ever living within the constraints of our one planet, but we cannot over-shoot for long without bringing about a collapse far more painful than an ordered low-carbon life.

The writing is on the wall. But will enough of us choose to read it?


*The carbonindependent.org website was launched in February 2007 by Ian Campbell and Margaret Campbell, and updated in November 2015.

Welsh Government Holds Up Burry Port Harbour Homes

Another hold up! Carmarthenshire County Council’s plans for a smart residential development on the coast at Burry Port harbour, on the site of the old Grillo chemical works, have been stalled again. The plans were rejected by the High Court in 2013 because of flood risk, but swiftly resurrected because a new map appeared to have erased the flood risk.

The plans should have been been voted on by the council’s planning committee today (April 23rd), but instead, the Welsh Government opted to call in the plans for further consideration. This could take a while because of the many complexities of the site.

The drawbacks of the location are in fact so great that it is hard to see how a developer could make money from the scheme — at least, if contamination and sewage problems were to be properly (and expensively) solved. Flood risk is even more problematic, and demands exceptional caution in siting new homes.  Even if the county council had pressed ahead, and developers Castletown Estates completed the 230 or so seaside residences, purchasers could well have found their properties colossally expensive or even impossible to insure.


No Flood Risk at Burry Port? Planning Advice Lags Behind Climate Change

Planning permission for major construction in Burry Port, on the shores of Burry Inlet, could be granted by Carmarthenshire County Council, on Thursday (April 23rd). The development would be “on the Grillo site”.

I thought the fat lady had sung and it was all over. The High Court rejected the scheme in late autumn 2013, because of flooding risk. Mr Justice Cranston’s decision was reported in the Llanelli Star on November 6th 2013 under the headline ‘Rejection of Burry Port Grillo development an ‘absolute  disaster’ ‘.

It wasn’t all over. Try, try and try again, and if you have enough backing, you can carry on until you get the answer you want. The ‘absolute disaster’ quote, from chair of Burry Port Yacht Club, Andrew Davies, hints at the disappointment felt by some local people, including the Pembrey and Burry Port Town council.

The Grillo site at Burry Port harbour was a chemical works run by German-owned Grillo Zincoxide (UK) Ltd, which last submitted accounts for 2005-06. You could not get a site much more ‘brownfield’ than Grillo. The land is contaminated. And liable to flood – isn’t it?

Well, somebody has altered a map. Now the flood risk has disappeared as quickly as glaciers in Antarctica. Oh. Disappearing glaciers mean rising sea levels which increase the flood risk. Surely?

Not in bureaucratland, evidently. Bonnie Palmer, development planning adviser with Natural Resources Wales, wrote to Carmarthenshire County Council on March 26th 2015 saying:

“Welsh Government has updated the development advice maps referred to under TAN 15 Development & Flood Risk (July 2004). Previously Site 6 [at Burry Port harbour] partially fell within zone C2 [at high risk from flooding, and without a significant flood defence infrastructure] however, subsequent to the recent update the site is now shown to lie outside of the C2 outline.”

A ‘TAN’ is a Technical Advice Note from the Welsh Government, and TAN 15 relates to flood risks. The introduction to the updated development advice maps states, though, that they are “not designed for small-scale investigation but as a trigger for policy advice in TAN 15”. The maps are supposed to be used only at scales of 1 inch to 0.4 of a mile or more. The updated map for Burry Port does indeed suggest that the harbour-side Grillo ex-works are at no risk of flooding, but as the introduction suggests, it should not be relied upon for a flood risk assessment of an individual site – and especially not at a time of rapid ice melt.

Carmarthenshire County Council has long been very keen for the site to be developed, by Castletown Estates Ltd. This entity is controlled by St James’s Company Ltd, 99% owned by Lord Magan of Castletown, a merchant banker and Conservative peer with a stately home in Ireland. Documents prepared on behalf of the county council show attractive artists’ impressions of colourful quayside homes, a vast improvement on today’s derelict 4.55 hectare (11.24 acre) site.  Shopping and leisure developments, and up to 230 seaside homes, would be built.

Based on measures which planners are obliged to use, the flooding risk is low – but guidance inevitably lags behind the actuality of climate change and the extreme weather events which occur. The consultants Waterman Transport & Development Ltd conclude, in paragraph 5.2.6 of their Flood Consequences Assessment for Carmarthenshire County Council, that:

“The model outputs for the 0.1% probability Tidal event in 2114 are shown in Drawing No. CIV16025-CSA-90-007-A01, included in Appendix D herewith. The evolution of flooding during this scenario is very similar to that already described above. Water levels within the Outer Harbour and East/West Docks are sufficient to spill over the dock walls and flow in a northerly direction towards the B4311 Road. The peak water elevation of ~6.88m AOD [above ordnance datum, meaning above average sea level] causes flood waters to also flow in an easterly direction across the Site and over the old access road towards the adjacent Grillo Site. Parts of both Site 5 and 6 are affected by flood waters in this scenario, albeit relatively shallow depths of circa 0.3m.”

The report’s Summary Assessment, Section 8, contains the following:

“With regard to the risks associated with Tidal Flooding: – – The NRW [Natural Resources Wales] Flood Map confirms that the Site is not affected by the extreme 0.5% and 0.1% probability tidal events in the present-day (2014). – It is predicted that the Site will remain flood-free during the 0.5% probability tidal event (baseline) in 2114. However, when the Upper Confidence Interval is applied to the tide level estimate, the Site is shown to experience flooding of up to 1.3m deep during this scenario. – It is predicted that the existing Site will be partly affected by the 0.1% probability tidal event (baseline) considering future sea level rise to 2114. – It is proposed to raise ground levels within the Site to a minimum of 7.1mAOD (the 0.5% probability level in 2114, with Upper Confidence Interval applied), which satisfies TAN 15’s threshold of flooding criteria. – The Site would remain flood-free during all scenarios assessed as part of this FCA. – The raised ground does not cause a significant impact on flooding for third party land and property, when considered as part of the wider Master Plan Development. – Safe Emergency Access/Egress is available via the Southern Distributor Road.” (my emphasis)

As 2114 is 99 years into the future, and it’s only a model anyway – can only be a model – potential flooding to a depth of 1.3 metres does not sound too worrisome, maybe – but a coastal situation, affected by wind and waves, adds more potential dangers to the scenario.

The avoidance mechanism to be deployed – raising the ground level – would inevitably impact on nearby areas which have not been artificially raised, although the Waterman report rejects this repercussion.

When we know that glaciers are melting alarmingly fast, and the unfrozen water has only one place to go, how wise is it to build right next to the sea?

And at Burry Port, that’s without considering the chemical contamination of the land, the impacts on wildlife, sewage discharges from hundreds of additional people, or Network Rail’s worries about dangers facing pedestrians streaming over the Church Road level crossing.

The derelict Grillo site needs a new use, but is this really the best option? I hope that all members of the planning committee will have read and digested the encyclopaedia-sized agenda of hundreds of pages, detailing the key applications for the site, and that any concerns about climate change will not be deemed irrelevant to planning decisions.


Future Generations At Risk (Let Alone Their ‘Well Being’)

Climate won’t wait for us to wake up, even here in temperate West Wales. Minimising man-made climate change needs to be the guiding principle for the Welsh Government’s Well Being of Future Generations Bill, or there will be no future generations.

Below, from sister blog Ecopoliticstoday, an extract from my forthcoming book Solving the Grim Equation, to be published by Cambria Books



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