South Wales Central AM, Andrew RT Davies, has slammed the Welsh Labour Government after ministers yet again failed to provide any clarity on whether an environmental impact assessment (EIA) will be ordered for the Barry Incinerator.
In questions in the Senedd yesterday, both the Environment Minister, Lesley Griffiths, and the Deputy Housing Minister, Hannah Blythyn, were unable to state when a decision would be made by the Welsh Government, despite the fact the prospect of an EIA was first announced by Blythyn on Valentine’s Day all the way back in 2018.
Some 12 months on, the Welsh Government is still no nearer to making a decision, and this despite the then First Minister, Carwyn Jones, writing to Andrew RT Davies in the Autumn claiming that a decision on whether an EIA would be carried out should be expected by the end of November.
And in a confusing turn of events in the National Assembly, it also transpired that responsibility for the EIA decision remains with Blythyn, despite her switch from the Government’s Environment Department to Housing and Local Government in the recent reshuffle.
Commenting on the ongoing chaos, South Wales Central AM and Shadow Minister for Environment, Andrew RT Davies said:
“It has now been over 12 months since the Welsh Labour Government initially announced it was minded to insist an environmental impact assessment was carried out on the incinerator – but still no decision has been taken.
“Regrettably, the performance of the Deputy Minister in the Senedd does not give confidence that the government is even close to making a decision, which will come as huge blow to campaigners and local residents in Barry.
“Labour’s constituency AM for the Vale - the de facto ‘number two’ to the First Minister - must get a grip on this situation and bang a few heads together around the cabinet table. It’s farcical that this situation has been allowed to drag on for so long.
“It’s now vital this decision is made with the utmost urgency and the Welsh Government do not backtrack on previous assurances made to local campaigners.”
Notes to editors:
Transcript of proceedings in the National Assembly for Wales on 20th February 2019:
Andrew RT Davies: Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. It is good to hear from the Plaid Cymru benches that the Conservatives in Westminster are taking action on the environment and I hope that the Minister will listen to the complaints this morning about the delay in her putting her own proposals forward.
But, in talking about delays, I really do want to ask the Cabinet Secretary if she could indicate when she will actually be making a decision on the environmental impact assessment that she was minded to, or her deputy was minded to, instruct on, regarding the Barry biomass boiler, because this now has been going on for over 12 months. The 14 February last year was when the Deputy Minister said that the Government was minded to instruct that an EIA be undertaken by the developer. When we talk about action not being taken and when people in a community listen to those statements, they expect action. We are now over 12 months on, and no action. So in that folder, I very much hope that you can give me a definitive date as to when you will be telling us that that environmental impact assessment will or will not be required.
Lesley Griffiths AM: I'm afraid I don't have it in my folder because that decision is still being taken by Hannah Blythyn.
Andrew RT Davies AM: You must agree, Minister, that that is completely unacceptable, 12 months on from when it was first announced that the Government was minded to instruct the developer to undertake an environmental impact assessment. We're 4 months on from when the then First Minister sent me a letter indicating that a decision would be taken by the end of November last year. Residents and Members of this institution are still waiting. How much longer do we have to wait? What pressure then will you bring to bear on Hannah Blythyn in her new role, who's obviously taken this responsibility with her, because I was of the opinion that it still resided with you, but clearly that's not the case. So, what pressure will you be bringing to bear to get that decision made? You were quick enough to make a decision on the Hendy windfarm in mid Wales. Let's have a decision on the Barry biomass boiler.
Lesley Griffiths AM: As I say, the decision is going to be with Hannah Blythyn. I'm sure she'll be in the Chamber, because I think she's answering the next set of questions. So, if the Member has the opportunity, he can ask her himself. But certainly, I will speak to her and ask her to write to you.
Andrew RT Davies: Deputy Minister, I'd be grateful if you could clarify for me how much progress you are making in actually getting to the decision about the environmental impact assessment that is required for the Barry biomass boiler. It is an obligation that you were minded to support. Obligations play both ways—both placed by planning authorities on developers, but where Government has obviously indicated their desire to implement something, then surely a 13-month period is significant time for you to be able to form an opinion and actually make a judgment call on it? Residents in Barry, and also the developer now, have been waiting a considerable length of time. Can you this afternoon give us a clear indication at the very least of the timeline you're working to to allow that decision to come forward?
Hannah Blythyn AM: I'm very aware of the representations the Member has previously and assiduously made on the issue, and of the local and the public attention and the public feeling behind it, and why. In respect of the decision, you're asking in terms of the environmental impact assessment of the planning application dealt with by the Vale council, and I know the former First Minister wrote to you to say he didn't anticipate a decision before Christmas, but further legal clarification on the aspects of the case has been necessary. I understand the Member's frustration with this and why he is pushing on behalf of his constituents, but I'm sure he agrees, on an issue such as this, it's important that things are done and that we get all of the best legal consideration that we can have to make sure that we come to the best decision, and a decision will be issued as soon as possible.