Joy in the country as barrage plan is rejected

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The Independent Online
Controversial plans for a pounds 70m barrage across the river Usk at Newport were yesterday rejected by William Hague, the Secretary of State for Wales.

The scheme, launched in 1993 by Newport Borough Council and Gwent County Council, was aimed at regenerating the port's flagging economy. It led to a head-on clash between town and country and culminated in a three- month public inquiry which yesterday handed down its verdict.

Mr Hague ruled the scheme would irreversibly damage the 85-mile long Usk, one of Europe's top angling rivers. He also said that the case for the barrage's economic potency was flawed.

The decision was welcomed by environmentalists. Merfyn Williams, director of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, said: "The findings confirm our evidence that a barrage would inflict great damage on the Usk."

Sandy Blair, Newport council's chief executive, was downcast. "A major opportunity to revitalise the heart of this once great port has been lost," he said. Some pounds 6.5m had been spent on preparatory work and it was hoped that the project would create 4,000 jobs.

The Labour MP for Newport West, Paul Flynn, detected a political motive in the decision to help Tory MPs in the marginal seats of Monmouth and Brecon and Radnor.