Letter: Development problems from Cardiff Bay to Dockland

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The Independent Online
Sir: While there is much talk in government circles and elsewhere of 'sustainable development', two articles on May 12 illustrate just how much we have to change our attitudes if this goal is ever to become a reality.

The first ('Dockland reserves under threat of closure') recounts the financial difficulties being experienced by the Ecological Parks Trust in maintaining a one-acre wildlife area known as Lavender Pond, that was designed by my company from former dereliction in London's Dockland.

The second, by Nicholas Schoon ('The price of turning mud into gold'), describes the efforts of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation to turn a 400-acre wildlife haven into an artificial lake, on the assumption that this will trigger much needed economic regeneration of the surrounding heavily polluted and derelict wasteland. The haven, designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1976, forms part of a proposed EC Special Protection Area and is identified as a Ramsar site.

What Mr Schoon omits to point out, and which is so poignantly illustrated by the Lavender Pond example, is that such artificially created areas require constant maintenance which, in turn, must be properly funded. In the case of Lavender Pond, this has been provided largely by public agencies, but these funds are now under threat. Although it would be difficult for all concerned if this funding were cut off, it could no doubt be remedied by a combination of local action and private sponsorship.

Cardiff Bay is altogether a different matter. Not only would the pounds 150m barrage across the bay need constant maintenance to protect it against structural failure, but also the elaborate and costly means of ensuring that the impounded waters - fed by two far from clean rivers, the Taff and the Ely, to say nothing of the pollution that will inevitably leach out of the surrounding filled ground - were safe for public use would have to be maintained in perpetuity if it were to stand any chance of fulfilling the development corporation's objectives.

Since such funding can never be guaranteed, as I and others sought to make clear to the Commons select committee considering the private Bill, would it not be more sensible, even at this stage, to take heed of examples such as Lavender Pond, and to redesign the Cardiff Bay scheme on a more sustainable basis?

Yours faithfully,

MARK LINTELL

Principal

Land Use Consultants

London, NW1

12 May

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