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Brickbats for Marine Plan as it is debated in Senedd

Words: Roger Milne
Welsh coastline / iStock-468073830

Lesley Griffiths, cabinet secretary for energy and planning, has hailed what she called ‘the beginning of a new strategic marine planning regime' when the Welsh Assembly debated the administration’s first draft marine plan.

However, in the run-up to Tuesday’s debate, marine conservation charities lined up to voice fears that the blueprint puts too much emphasis on development over conservation.

Alec Taylor, programme manager for marine governance at WWF UK, said the charity had concerns about the emphasis placed on “extracting maximum economic benefit from Welsh seas, without sufficiently assessing how that will affect the resilience of our marine ecosystems”.

RSPB Cymru director Katie-Jo Luxton said she was “shocked” by elements of the plan that threatened to undo the Welsh Government's own commitments to nature and sustainable development.

Support for a number of tidal lagoon energy schemes along the Welsh coast “with very limited caveats” was the worst example, she said.

Griffiths put a brave face on these criticisms, claiming they were “slightly disingenuous”.

She agreed that as seas get busier “there is a greater risk of conflict and potential to undermine marine resilience. Therefore, strategic marine planning is critical. With effective planning, our maritime industries can grow and prosper whilst our precious natural heritage is safeguarded”.

She reminded assembly members that last September she set ambitious energy targets for Wales, including 70 per cent of electricity consumption to come from renewable energy by 2030.

“I see offshore renewable energy having the potential to make an important contribution to meet this target” she said.

During the 60-minute debate on the plan some assembly members complained that the document was too long and overdue. The motion passed by assembly members welcoming consultation on the document highlighted concern over the continuing delay over a decision on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project.

The marine plan was published by the Welsh Government in December 2017.

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