BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 5 September, 2001, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
'Hands off our seabed', Wales told
Environmental watchdogs are demanding to know why the Welsh Assembly has been studying sites for gravel dredging - on the English sea bed.

A policy drawn up by the assembly covers waters close to the English side of the Bristol Channel.

But authorities on the English side were not told about the study.

The assembly has even considered dredging the sea bed around Lundy island - a vulnerable marine conservation area off north Devon.

Environmentalists say dredging sand and gravel for the construction industry harms the underwater ecology.

Shifting sands

They want it banned altogether.

Campaigners claim that once-sandy beaches at Porthcawl and the Gower are now down to bare rock.

Devon county councillors have been urged to object to the study - which was done without their knowledge.

Lundy cliffs
Lundy island is surrounded by the dredging study area
Councillor Rodney Cann said: "When I saw that the Welsh assembly were doing a study of the Bristol Channel the alarm bells started to ring, because in the past there have been various attempts to increase mineral and gravel extraction.

"It has raised suggestions that it has put at risk our beaches, interfered with the fishing beds and put quite a lot of the ecology round our coastline at risk.

"The area of study comes within a few miles of north Devon and in particular Lundy island, which is a matter of major concern."

In May, Somerset Wildlife Trust objected to bids to extract 15 million tons of sand in the Channel between Minehead and Weston-super-Mare.

Dredging go-ahead

It said no further licences should be issued until the consequences were understood.

In June, Welsh assembly environment minister Sue Essex granted an eight-month extension to dredging licenses in other parts of the Bristol Channel, to safeguard the future of companies involved.

Lundy coral
Lundy's seabed is rich in marine life
The new policy document says that dredging is acceptable in some parts of the channel.

It says detailed environmental assessments must be done before licences are granted.

But critics say it apparently omits to address the impact on the English coast.

A deadline for objections expired on 27 July, but it had to be extended so the English authorities could comment.

Stewart Redding, Devon's minerals officer, said: "I only learned about it towards the end of July and I had to do a hasty report."

Mr Redding's report urged councillors, meeting on Wednesday, to press for a study on the English side by the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions.

It also wanted the Welsh assembly to clarify its policy on the area around Lundy - which is "wholly within English waters."

See also:

15 May 01 | Wales
Assembly faces dredging dilemma
05 Apr 00 | Scotland
Cash boosts coastal erosion fight
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories