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Severnside Airport

Volume 401: debated on Wednesday 19 March 2003

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What recent representations he has received concerning a proposed Severnside Airport. [102969]

I have met representatives of the Severnside consortium, who briefed me on their proposals.

Does my right hon. Friend recall receiving from me representations that show that there is considerable opposition to the current proposals for Severnside airport on a man-made island in the Severn estuary? There is opposition from Monmouthshire county council and no support from the 18 airlines, including British Airways, that I have contacted, and I found majority opposition from the residents of Portskewett and Sudbrook in my constituency when I undertook a full household survey. Will my right hon. Friend study those representations and recommend to the Department of Transport that the proposal be rejected?

I will certainly study those views. I am well aware of the concerns of residents in his local area, not least because he brought them to my attention a few weeks ago. In the consultation exercise that is being carried out by the Department of Transport—a White Paper will follow later this year—full account will be taken of environmental, safety and economic issues, as well as of the views of local residents. The Severnside consortium has an ambitious plan to relocate traffic from the south-east of England to that area, but the views of local residents must of course be taken into account.

Does the Secretary of State still support the concept of a regional air service with Cardiff as its hub?

Yes, I do. Regional airports already play a vital role in Wales and should play an even more vital role right across Wales, from north to south and from east to west. There is great potential for increasing air traffic in that way.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that international airports are good servants but atrocious neighbours? Would it not be right to use the Severn estuary, with its almost unique quality of having the second highest rise and fall of tide in the world, to generate electricity in a clean, benign and nonpolluting way?

As my hon. Friend knows, I am a keen enthusiast for renewable energy. The Severn estuary barrage was one of the issues that we examined during our consideration of the energy White Paper. It is hugely expensive, but there are opportunities for utilising tidal and wave power, and the Welsh coast and the Severn estuary may represent such an opportunity.