Flood danger of man-made lake

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CARDIFF'S PLANS to develop an up-market waterfront behind a pounds 197m barrage, to rival that of Baltimore in the US, have hit a major setback.

The man-made lake at the heart of plans to regenerate Cardiff's dilapidated docks has been drained, amid concerns that the barrage is damaging the environment and could lead to flooding.

Now the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation will have to apply for permission to re-fill the 500-acre lagoon after the Environment Agency served it with a notice to drain the lake.

The problems centre on the kilometre-long barrage, completed a month ago. Computers controlling sluice gates which regulate water levels in the bay are malfunctioning.

Scientists have been monitoring oxygen levels and water quality, part of the agency's responsibility for granting a fortnightly licence to the corporation. The agency today confirmed that the latest licence, which expired last Thursday, was not extended because of "operational difficulties". A meeting to review the situation will be held tomorrow. "We have to make sure that all environmental considerations are catered for. That includes the efficient operation of the barrage systems and everything that has an impact on the environment," said a spokesman for the agency.

A spokesman for the corporation told the Independent on Sunday the request was unreasonable.

The barrage took six years to build and will eventually permanently hold back the waters of the Rivers Taff and Ely.

Welsh development secretary Rhodri Morgan warned: "The season of maximum rainfall is upon us. The Taff and Ely flood regularly and, unless the system of controlling flows down in Cardiff is foolproof, we could be in trouble."