HL Deb 05 May 1964 vol 257 cc1147-9

2.54 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a, —(Lord Merthyr.)


My Lords, I do not intend to oppose the Third Reading of this Bill, but I am sure that, but for his unfortunate and regretted absence, my noble Leader Lord Alexander of Hillsborough would have spoken on behalf of his native place, Weston-super-Mare. Petitions against this Bill were presented by Somerset County Council, Cardiff Council County, Portishead Urban District Council, Cleveland Urban District Council and Weston-super-Mare Borough Council. The Committee heard counsel for the petitioners and many witnesses. They devoted some nine days to their deliberations. I realise that the views put to the Committee were most carefully and patiently examined, but, with the greatest respect, I would say that Weston-super-Mare Borough Council are very unhappy about the Committee's conclusion.

The advice the Council have had from an eminent consultant on tidal conditions and estuary problems is, in level terms, to the effect that conditions in the channel are complex. The range of tides, up to 50 feet at the eastern end, is one of the highest in the world, and there is a very large amount of silt in suspension as the tide ebbs and flows. The consultant was unable to give us any kind of assurance that the construction of the jetty, and more especially of the wharf at the end, will not have an adverse effect on Weston-super-Mare. He says that the proposed work might well alter the line of the new channel, which, in turn, would allow this mud to be deposited over the existing sands of Weston Bay. It might well change, also, the currents in the Bay, which could result in the borough's existing sewage outlet into the main stream being disturbed and this outfall not being carried out to sea, with consequences of which some holiday resorts in this country are painfully aware.

The Council's expert advisers say that, with these great questions at stake, it is reasonable to expect that the Promoters of the Bill should carry out hydrological surveys before seeking to proceed with the proposed works. The Promoters' expert consultants seem quite satisfied that the works will not have any adverse effect on Weston Bay, although at no stage have the Promoters suggested that they would be willing to give Weston-super-Mare an adequate and comprehensive protective clause covering adverse effects.

As your Lordships know, Weston-super-mare has a significant position in the holiday trade of this country. Already some £6 million is spent every year by visitors and, as an independent survey showed, in 1963 the resorts' visitors included 2,500 from overseas. The holiday industry occupies a most important place in the national economy, and I can hardly believe that it is a sound policy to give any encouragement to proposals which will seriously interfere with the amenities of a substantial and attractive part of Somerset, when there are alternative solutions to the problem of iron importation in South Wales. In conclusion, I can only say that, while I cannot press for the House to oppose the Third Reading, I hope that these considerations, which will he on record, will receive attention in another place and that the Bill will be considered at greater length.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed, and sent to the Commons.