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The Dam Busters.

Betsan Powys | 12:51 UK time, Monday, 18 October 2010

So. Farewell then Severn Barrage ...

Farewell, at least, to the proposal to build a ten mile barrage from Lavernock Point to Brean Down near Weston-super-Mare.

A controversial project? Of course - because ground-breaking, ambitious projects reliant on a lot of public money always are, argued its supporters. Of course - because the cost was too big both in financial and environmentsl terms, said its critics. All or nothing was never the right approach.

Put "controversial" and "excessive" as the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne described the £30bn scheme this morning, in the one government pot and what you get is a 'no'.

That 'no' read like this: there is "no strategic case for major public sector investment in a large-scale energy project in the Severn estuary at this time". There is no 'yes' to any other option either.

True to Severn barrage form there's delight and gnashing of teeth in pretty equal measure, one of the reasons - as the environment analyst Roger Harabin spells out here - that the UK government saw it as too big a political risk.

Peter Hain is in the 'doom' camp. It is "disastrous for the Welsh economy and our environment". Personally he was always "determined to progress" the barrage, though Labour, in government, never gave it more than what one party source this morning described to me as "broad support". Some MPs wanted a pledge to build the barrage included in the party's election manifesto. They didn't get it. 'Preferred option' is one thing. Sign on the dotted line another.

The 'no' to the barrage is the right answer say Plaid. It was, says Elfyn Llwyd, "an expensive 'silver bullet' pushed by the Labour Party to show their supposedly green credentials". But the lack of a 'yes' to any other renewable energy scheme? Wrong.

So what to make of this morning's statement from Jane Davidson, Minister for the Environment? No gnashing of teeth. No delight. A straightforward press release giving thanks to those who worked on the study.

Go on, Minister, said our reporter, give us a response to the decision itself. Good or bad?

So it's official then. The Assembly Government is neither happy with the decision, nor sad. Neither disappointed nor jubilant. This is the sound of a Minister probably somewhat relieved she doesn't have to make what Sir Humphrey would call "a courageous decision" on such a controversial project.

If the St Athan military project gets the bullet in tomorrow's Strategic Defence Review, should we expect such a sanguine response, dare I even call it fence sitting?

Hardly.

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