Construction of Barrage etc. and Other Works

Part of Orders of the Day — Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 20th October 1992.

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Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands , Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney 8:30 pm, 20th October 1992

Yes. In fact, these are theoretical assessments. They are not based on a rigorous analysis of demand. It is assumed that if construction takes place the office space will be filled.

We have every reason to doubt that development of the sort that is proposed will be achieved in anything like the timescale that is being talked about. There is much genuine questioning taking place. The only hope of achieving such development lies in the Government relocating Government Departments. Has the Minister any announcements of such dispersal? It is rumoured that the Lord Chancellor's Department will be shifted and I should like to know whether the move will take place. If there is dispersal, will Government Departments move only to Cardiff? We are talking of the need to diversify the economies of neighbouring communities such as my own. As a part of a diversification programme it should surely be considered as part of a Government Department dispersal programme.

I read in one of the Sunday newspapers this weekend that, as a result of the collapse in the property market, London rents have fallen dramatically and Government Departments and others who had talked about dispersal now plan to stay in London at much cheaper rents. The property balloon has finally burst, but one would not think so from this document.

Chestertons has come to the conclusion that the changes in property prices and property development have in no way affected the long-term forecasts for the scheme and that has been used to justify the additional expenditure involved which our amendments seek to limit. I doubt whether any independent economist would argue that there has not been a sea change in attitude towards property and land and rental values as a result of the drama of the past 18 months or two years. Yet Chestertons blithely continues to assert, with no firm foundation, that all its valuations in the original document, published before the property crisis, are still valid.

Modest adjustments have been made. Chestertons now expects an annual increase in rentals and land values of 6.5 per cent. No one seems to have told Chestertons that we are supposed to be heading for zero inflation. Property inflation in the Cardiff docklands area is supposed to rise by at least 6.4 per cent. each year for the next 15 or 20 years. We have every right to doubt that.

The people who make such assessments are estate agents and surveyors. About 12 months ago, my mother wanted to sell her house. It was something of an emergency and the local estate agent quoted me a price. I said I wanted to sell the property, not stand there. There was a look of horror on the estate agent's face when I suggested that his figure was not right. Twelve months later, not one interested party had looked at the house, so the price had to be dropped by a phenomenal amount. Chestertons has the same mentality. It cannot believe that the property world is changing around it. The same outfit gives the advice in this document that property values will rise by 6.5 per cent. a year, year after year.