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How the plans for a flagship aquarium could have hit the buffers.
And the prospect of lifting the hosepipe ban comes too late for our
Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1707 seconds
Good afternoon. Coming up - doubt that a multi-million pound project
in Bedfordshire or a state of-the- art aquarium will ever come about.
First let us meet our guests. Jim Paice, MP for South East
Cambridgeshire, at the Hodgson, Liberal Democrat Mayor.
Let us begin with a brief word about the Jubilee celebrations. An
incredible outpouring of support for the Queen. Has that put an end
to questions about the future of the monarchy. It was good to see so
many people coming out despite the weather. Lot of things happening.
recent poll showed around one- quarter of people in this country
are republican. There are those voices. They are keeping themselves
very Hedon, because I do not think it is a fraction of that. It is at
tiny minority. What we have seen over the last weekend remind us how
lucky we are to have a monarchy. may have rained on the Queen's
Parade but after two try a winter's most of that East is the only
region still in the drought zones. Even though a hosepipe ban in may
be lifted soon our farmers are still at the sharp end. They are
calling for a new water storage facilities. They are calling for
compulsory meters in homes. Will the government's Water Bill do
anything to help? How much what to do you use in
total? We used 140 million gallons per year. This man is the estate
director of this estate in Suffolk. In common with farmers across our
region he agreed to a cut of 20 % in the what if he abstracts from
rivers and boreholes. But that has had a profound effect on his
business. We took the decision in January of this year it to reduce
our or irrigated crops in a year by 20 %. We lost 200 acres out of our
or rotation. What has that cost you? �100,000. They rain in April
helped farmers and so has the recent warmer weather, but they are
now irrigating. At these farms they can abstract
126 million gallons per year. is a salad type of potato. We would
budget on irrigating them at seven or eight times over the course of a
season. Why do you not grow a variety that requires less water?
If we cannot sell the variety that we have grown with less water there
is no point. In December this had got nothing in it.
Back on the estate this man invested more than �1 million in
this reservoir. He feels that farmers have more than done their
bit. The hosepipe ban he says was too little too late. He once the
water companies to invest more. have agreed to this 20 % reduction.
We are the first to be hit. There is the potential that they will ban
all abstraction from groundwater. The hosepipe ban is a sticking
plaster. Will water industry has spent �100 billion in the last 20
years. It is part of a planned investment. It covers 40,000
kilometres of pipes. It covers drinking water. It covers sewage
and waste water that we deal with. What happens next? The Government
is planning to reform the entire water industry. That will include
reform of abstraction licences. This man says the drought has led
everyone with an interest in what had to communicate better than they
have done before, but he says there is more to do. We have got to
invest in infrastructure. We are prepared to do it is far worse. The
water industry should be prepared to invest in the future. The Water
Bill was mentioned there. It is designed to allow businesses and
public sector bodies to improve their efficiency by allowing them
to switch suppliers, allowing new entrants into the market, making
them respond better to customers, unlock the new sources of water
supply, and to regulate their abstraction of water.
However Luton MP Gavin Shuker says the bill is toothless and it could
be 2000 the 30 before things change. The key issue is abstraction. The
process of taking water out of the natural environment. The Government
themselves have said that this process will take until 2030. That
is too far away. Climate change will make drought more prevalent in
the coming years. Jim Paice, do you want to respond to that allegation
that you are dragging your feet? is a bit rich coming from a party
that was in government until two years ago. The reality is that will
take a long while to make the changes that we want to make. But
there are some changes that have started happening. We are now
encouraging farmers to fill the reservoirs were never there is
enough water and the rivers. We encourage said to trade abstraction
right. -- encouraged them to trade abstraction the right's.
They Institute of Civil engineers come up with some ideas recently.
One of those was compulsory water metering. Do you agree with that?
It is a matter of fairness. There is a lot the public can do as well.
In Bedford we have signed up to a 20 % reduction in the water we use.
There is an education programme to try and encourage people to use
less water. If we can get that reduction of 20 % it will alleviate
the problem. With the Water Bill could there not be more in it to
regulate abstraction? Yes. There is a lot in it. All abstraction is
regulated. There will be tighter regulations. The Bill is going to
put a time limit on some abstraction right that some people
have had since ancient history. There is a great deal more
regulation going to take place. It is already happening. You heard in
the report how the water authorities have had to impose
restrictions. The Environment Agency can implement abstraction
restrictions almost overnight. have got a background in farming.
Do you share the frustration of farmers at the moment? They are
taking the brunt of this. They are getting the hardest hit while the
water companies are taking the products. I understand their anger
about that. But things have moved on. A lot has happened in the last
two or three months. We have changed the rules about obstruction.
We have set up a grand scheme. That means farmers can get grants
towards new reservoirs. This reservoir. Is interesting. A lot of
farmers say it is a great idea that we're having to jump through
millions of books when it comes to planning permission. That is
something the government back could make better. The government back
has just announced a new national planning framework which loosens up
the regulations. We are not going to bid extra restrictions on
reservoirs. We have stopped that. We are freeing it up. But
development need planning. Dave Hodgson, is this all about all of
us taking what are too much for granted and can education play a
role? Of course it is. One of the bits of the Water Bill is about
opening up to competition. If it is competition that is a good thing.
The water companies will have to be more competitive. They will have to
look at their leaks. We will have to look at green water. -- grey
water. More from me in a moment. We are going to stay with water and
plans for an aquatic Centre in Bedfordshire. The Nirah project was
planned seven years ago with an estimated cost of up to �500
million. Despite more than �3 million in public loans the
developers still have not submitted full planning permission.
At disused quarry in the middle of Bedfordshire. It was once used for
it claimed it end there brick industry. This is what it could
look like. Costing up to �600 million, the ambitious project
called Nirah, complete with a freshwater research park and
leisure facilities, has been dogged by controversy and delay.
Nirah is dead in the water. It is not going to happen. It is an abuse
of public funds. It was an error on have of the previous county council
that no longer exists. It was naivety and lack of commercial
expertise. Any council going across in the future I hope will learn
from the mistakes of what was the former Bedfordshire County Council.
It is here at this form her quarry that they it Research Centre was
supposed to have been built. It still says on a Nirah website that
the project was due to be completed by spring 2012.
But in the place where bricks used to be made, not a single one has
been laid. What went wrong?
There was a dispute over ownership of the land which ended up in a
High Court. The businessmen behind the project won that fight, but the
battle to secure the millions to pay for it continues to evade them.
Accounts showed debts of �10 million. It is not just private
money. Nirah was loaned �3 million of public money from the beginning.
It is shocking. Where has the money gone? Will we get the money back? I
doubt it. The money has gone. It is public money. No other planning a
ever incurs public money from day one. This is where Nirah says the
money was spent. �400,000 went to directors. �1.3 million went on
professional fees and consultants. �1.1 million went on planning
applications. The worst scenario is that the
company goes to administration. We have money secured on 200 acres of
land. We take possession of that site. We get our money back. I am
hopeful that the money comes forward. I am hopeful that we can
get our money back. I am hopeful that we will get the jobs and
investment. If none of that happens? We are down at �3 million.
Main Eye blames the economic downturn for the delays and say
they are still seeking investment. Nirah has two more years to get
full planning permission, otherwise many will say the project really is
dead in the water. We invited Nirah to join us today.
They were unavailable, but they Some former members of the East of
England Development Agency told us that because the Department of
business, innovation and skills now has responsibility for the project,
they could not speak to as. Joining me now is a former Labour
MP for Bedford who supported the decision at the time. Also joining
as is at councillor. He helped make that decision.
Let me put these criticisms to you. You heard them in the report. An
abuse of public funds, naivety, and lack of commercial expertise.
back to 2005 When we were approached by the Nirah team, along
with representatives from Liverpool and South Wales, to build an iconic
scheme that would have put to better chip on the map. We were
delighted to be part of that project. We were delighted to be
part of an idea which are still has a very good chance of happening.
But that project be is still a hole in the ground. Let me put the
criticisms to you again. An abuse of public funds, naivety, lack of
commercial awareness. Nadine Dorries is entitled to her opinion,
but she is wrong. A you believe the scheme will go ahead? It stands a
good chance of going ahead. I am not saying it will. Where we are
today is the public purse is protected. Those loans are
protected. But we still stand a good chance of this happening. But
it does not we get our money back. Do you agree with that? I want to
pick up on the point of his being and I need use of public money. If
that attitude had been applied to a project in Cornwall more than 10
years ago, one of the most successful leisure projects in that
country would not have taken place. There is no absolute guarantee that
a project will succeed straight away. Many people are disappointed
that Nirah has not got going. But it is not over yet. It is premature
to write it off. Debt of nearly �10 million. �1.3 million spent on
consultants. Should alarm bells not have been ringing? I have never
found any evidence that it was a competition. In the current climate
no private sector project would get �3 million. Richard talks about
securing the land. Nirah bought the land for �1. Where they would get
�3 million, I am not sure. They have been here for seven years.
is a question of if they can get the money. In this climate and
nobody has the money. When this was first thought of, we were and
benign financial -- we were in the Apennines financial situation.
There was no private money. Where was the private investment? The
county council put the money in. I am worried about getting the money
back. It is about accountability is it not? That is what people are
frustrated that out. Who is accountable? Nirah is responsible
for getting this delivered. As far as the money that is Britain from
the public sector is concerned, that was scrutinised, it complied
with state aid rules. Similar projects have been successful
elsewhere. It Eden Project had money from Cornwall County Council.
Argue happy that you back the plan? I absolutely. Even with hindsight I
am delighted at the back it. I still back it. It is something we
can look back on in years to come as an eye contact Park or better
Chia. Thank you all very much. Time for our weekly political round-up.
At what a week it has been. -- what a week it has been.
Whatever the weather the party started across the region to
celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Over the past few days
there was an outbreak of happiness around the country. Celebrations
continued in Chelmsford, making official the city's status it was
granted earlier this year to mark the Jubilee. This will create jobs
for Chelmsford. All of our local businesses are changing the way
they market themselves. The 68 anniversary of the D-Day landings
was commemorated this week. Read were laid at a service in Norwich.
The England squad visited their sponsors at Vauxhall headquarters
in Luton before flying out to Euro 2012.
Spirits remained high at the Suffolk Show with the Environment
Secretary assured us there will be no shortage of water for the
Olympics. We made provision for those Olympics sites to be provided
with water. That would be sure that the going is good for the horses.