Fresh opposition to Severn barrage plans

FRESH calls to throw out plans for a barrage on the River Severn have been issued by the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership in a bid to save the Port of Bristol.

The group, made up of businesses and members of the four local authorities in the West of England, including South Gloucestershire Council, blasted the proposal, saying the structure, its proposed £600 million container terminal and biomass power stations, would significantly reduce accessibility to the port for large ships.

Simply discussing the potential construction of a barrage has had a damaging effect on the region’s economy, the partnership said, and the port is already attracting less investment as the debate lingers. Colin Skellett, chairman of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "We are seeing significant jobs created in our low carbon industries, but the confused messages and publicity generated around the barrage proposals is already affecting investment in the port and the Avonmouth & Severnside Enterprise Area. "We thought the barrage was off the agenda after the last study but it seems that we are in danger of having to go through the process again."

The £34.3 billion development was abandoned in 2010, to the disappointment of the scheme's supporters. The Severn Estuary Partnership, an organisation made of up of all the estuary’s users also warned at the time the potential of the river should not be ignored.

Despite the plans being ruled out, Corlan Hafren, a consortium established to spearhead the development, is still hoping to press on with the barrage and deliver it through private investment.

Although opposed to a barrage, the partnership said it would back attempts to harness the Severn Estuary’s tidal energy through other technologies, especailly projects which did not "compromise the port".

A group spokesman added: "The best outcome for the port at present is a very clear decision from Government that the Cardiff-Weston barrage in the proposed format will not be progressed and that alternative technologies will be investigated to minimise impact on the port and the environment."

The new Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, also expressed concerns at the impact a barrage would have on the port.

He said: "I am strongly opposed to plans for the Cardiff-Weston barrage which simply won’t work – this was the conclusion of the Government’s own study as recently as 2010.

"The financial and environmental risks are too great, as are the potential loss of investment and jobs at Bristol Port."

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