MAJOR NEWPORT / SEVERN-SIDE PROJECTS - WILL THEY EVER HAPPEN?
Severnside Airport, the Severn Barrage, the Usk Barrage, lagoons, the M4 relief road......in truth we have been here before many times, without getting very far. Aside from the completion of Brunel's Severn Tunnel and two expansive road bridges, the Severn Estuary and the tidal stretches around Newport have been the subject of much speculation regarding regeneration projects and for harnessing the natural elements to create energy. It is not because it is environmentally significant, it isn't, it is because politicians have failed to demonstrate a clear vision and small time political interests have prevented further development.
The latest study, by aviation consultants MSP Solutions, on behalf of the Institute for Welsh Affairs says that Wales and the West of England should cooperate to promote a state-of-the-art, 24-hour Severnside passenger and cargo airport that would serve the whole of south West Britain.
In 1968 Severnside was identified as an area of potential economic growth in the UK. Conservative MP for South Kensington Sir Brandon Rhys Williams is an early proponent of the idea of a major airport in the area and makes a number of contributions suggesting that it could be one of the keys to increasing employment opportunities.
There was an early reference to the idea in parliamentary questions in 1973. With predictable opposition from further north!
Sir B. Rhys Williams asked the Secretary of State for Wales what study he has made of the cost and practicability of building a national airport on Severn-side; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Peter Thomas stated the Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for advising on future airport development and has announced its intention to study the desirable future airport structure in the regions.
Sir B. Rhys Williams - Will any right hon. and learned Friend consider the importance of this project in the context of regional and employment policy for Britain as a whole? Will he also confirm that if the Maplin project goes ahead this important project for Wales will not be shelved through shortage of finance?
Mr. Thomas - Certainly, one considers suggestions like this in terms of employment opportunities. The economic problems of South Wales at the moment take priority. Any major airport development on Severnside would inevitably be a very long-term project.
Leo Abse - Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that it is important to hon. Members who represent constituencies on Severnside that, apart from any inquiry that might be taking place, we do not want the Secretary of State or any other body to be manipulated by people who should be more interested in looking after the housing affairs of South Kensington? Whereas engineers and other people may benefit from certain schemes, an environmental disaster could hit the whole of Severnside. In any review of such a suggestion will the Secretary of State bear in mind that we have no desire to have dumped upon Severnside schemes which have already been rejected vigorously in other parts of the country?
Mr. Thomas - I am fully aware that the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) is a contentious one which arouses considerable controversy.
Mr. Adley - Notwithstanding the outburst from the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), in terms of land use could not an airport on reclaimed land on the Welsh Grounds have valuable employment implications for South Wales on both sides of the Bristol Channel? Will my right hon. and learned Friend look at the possibility of this area in the light of Rhoose, Lulsgate and Staverton, three airports which might be able to close down if such an airport were provided on the Welsh Grounds?
Mr. Thomas - I have no doubt that any study on future use for a further major airport outside the London area would wish to take full account of all the claims and potential of the Severnside area.
In September 1981 Gwent county council made a submission to the Stansted inspector proposing the development of an airport on Severnside as an alternative to the expansion of Stansted airport but to no avail.
Remember this (exciting news from 1991) from 'construction news plus' including reference to a Gwent County Council plan from 1981
Land was purchased and finance arranged but after this report in Local Government Chronicle (in March 1994) not much
In 2001 a new consortium emerged and put forward their £2 billion proposal in January 2003 as the Labour Government began their review of aviation policy and rejected the idea, dismissed in typically small time fashion by Kim Howells MP, in a manner that would have delighted Rhodri Morgan, Cardiffian and Welsh Assembly First Minister at the time
16 December 2003 - Plan rejected....Plans for a new £2bn airport in the Severn Estuary have been rejected by the UK Government..... The proposal for the Severnside airport plan was submitted earlier this year, and could have been ready to serve Wales and the west of England by 2012. Transport Minister Kim Howells strongly denied claims that Cardiff had been downgraded. "This is a nonsense - Cardiff is set to grow from 1.5m passengers to 5m a year," said Mr Howells. (Its just over a million now in 2013). "We did not see a future or even a start-up for the proposals we were presented with on Severnside," he said.
The BBC report states "The Severnside airport would have been built near Newport, south Wales, with runways on a man-made island in the Severn Estuary. Supporters had said the airport could have handled 30m passengers a year by 2030 and helped create 13,000 jobs. Last year, Transport Minister Alistair Darling said the proposal would only have been likely to go ahead if airports at Cardiff or Bristol closed. Michael Stephen, head of the Severnside proposal, said the Department for Transport had held "a blinkered attitude to solving the problem of future air transport demand in the south east of England".
The 2003 White Paper published by the UK Government included the following
It has been bubbling under ever since including the following small contributions
Apr 13 2009 (Western Mail)
"Plans for a new international airport in South Wales have been resurrected five years after being grounded by the UK government. Controversial plans for a runway and terminals in Llanwern, Newport, were halted when they failed to win government approval in 2003 – but the ambitious proposals for an airport to rival Cardiff International Airport have been resubmitted. According to a Newport City Council report, there are newly submitted plans to site the airport on land reclaimed from the Severn Estuary, to the south-east of Redwick. Its terminals would be to the north of the operational part of Llanwern Steelworks and southeast of Underwood in the Bishton and Wilcrick area." Nothing happened.