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Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, 167 ha

Curlew feeding in estuary mud

Image: Steve Round

The site: Cardiff Bay was an area of intertidal mudflats and channels designated as an SSSI for its nationally important numbers (over 8,000 birds) of wintering waders and wildfowl, including dunlin, redshank and curlew. The Bay supported the highest density of birds in the Severn Estuary, and was considered by the RSPB as an integral part of the Severn Estuary, which was proposed as an SPA for its internationally important wintering wader populations.

The proposed development: In 1989, the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, a body set up and supported by the Welsh Office, proposed a scheme to barrage the bay to create a lagoon, whilst redeveloping the docklands. This was promoted as a parliamentary bill.

The objection: The RSPB objected to this proposal because its development would destroy the Taff/Ely Estuary SSSI and adversely affect the Severn Estuary pSPA (proposed SPA) by permanently submerging the intertidal mudflats on which its wintering and passage bird populations relied. The arguments around the parliamentary bill centred on whether the project had no alternatives and whether it could be justified on economic grounds.

The outcome: In 1993, the Cardiff Bay Barrage Act was passed by Parliament allowing the development to proceed, citing overriding economic need, despite an independent economic report questioning the economic veracity of the project. The Government funded a 439 ha wetland creation project on the nearby Gwent Levels in an attempt to compensate for the loss of the Bay.