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02Aug91 UK: CARDIFF BAY BARRAGE - POLITICIANS KEEP THE BARRAGE AT BAY.

The Cardiff Bay Barrage suffered another setback last week when Parliament's standing orders committee refused to allow it to be hurried through. Margo Cole spoke to those affected to find out what it will mean for the redevelopment of the bay.Cardiff is making a huge effort to establish itself as an international capital city. Central to this is the regeneration of the city's former dockland area - some 1,100 ha of previously derelict land which is to be transformed into 'a magnificent waterside environment', according to recent publicity material from the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation.At the heart of the corporation's proposals is the construction of a barrage at the mouth of Cardiff Bay to create a 200 ha freshwater lake. This will have a permanent high water level, which is a far more attractive prospect to developers than the present wildly varying tides which leave behind what some consider to be ugly mud flats.An Act of Parliament is needed to allow the £125 million barrage to be built, so the development corporation teamed up with South Glamorgan County Council to sponsor a Bill. This was by no means a straightforward as they had hoped. When the Bill was discussed in the House of Commons in April this year Labour MP Rhodri Morgan successfully filibustered the tabling 300 amendments, so the Bill ran out of time.Mr Morgan was echoing the concerns of local people. Many Cardiff residents are worried that ground water levels will rise once the barrage is built, and that their homes will be flooded. A powerful environmental lobby is also concerned that the barrage will destroy the mudflats, which are the natural habitat of sea birds.When the Bill ran out of time the Government, acting through the Welsh Office, took it on, giving it a lot more power than when it was a private bill. It is now a 'hybrid bill', which means that, although it is sponsored by a government department, because private interests are at stake it cannot be dealt with in the same way as straightforward government bills.The first stage for the Welsh Office, after taking on the Bill, was to deposit it in Parliament to get the procedures moving. All hybrid bills then have to go before the standing orders committee, which decides whether any of the normal procedures can be dispensed with.The Government had hoped this committee would speed things up allowing a second reading of the Bill in October after the summer recess. The committee did not agree, however, and the Bill will now have to start its passage through Parliament during the next session beginning in November.With all of the committee stages still to get through, and more evidence to be heard from opposers of the barrage, the timing of the Bill is still far from certain. Although, once it gets to the House of Commons the Government can instruct it's MP's how to vote and the Bill could go through very easily, there is still a long way to go before it gets to that stage.And there is an unknown factor, a General Election, which will happen at some stage during the next year. The timing of this could be crucial to the speed at which construction of the barrage can start.While the politicians fight it out in London developers, builders and public authorities in Cardiff have to decide what his means for their vision of a redeveloped docklands in 'Europe's newest capital city'.