A BARRAGE in the Severn Estuary would have an "absolutely devastating" effect on the surrounding habitat, environmental groups have warned MPs.

At a meeting in the House of Common, members of The Angling Trust, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) told the energy and climate committee that the current proposal for a barrage would be extremely damaging to the region's wildlife.

Angling Trust National Campaigns coordinator Martin Salter told MPs a full-width barrage from Cardiff to Weston would mean fish dying due to sudden changes in water pressure and salinity, and through turbine strikes. He also refuted claims from the scheme's advocates, including consortium Hafren which recently put the project back on the table, that the barrage's environmental impact would be limited.

"Claims that these turbines are fish friendly are absolute guff," he said. "This is 24/7 fish mincing. Turbines kill fish above a tip speed of six-seven metres per second. "The Hafren proposal is for a tip speed of nine metres per second. How on earth can they make press statements that these are "fish-friendly"? They are simply not."

He added: "This drives a coach and horses through all environmental protections that governments have signed up to. The impact could be absolutely devastating on both the commercial fishery, on the recreational fishery and on highly protected habitat."

All four organisations however expressed support for smaller alternative projects in the Severn Estuary to test and develop new tidal energy technology, which Britain could export globally.

WWT chief executive Martin Spray told the House of Common more sustainable options had to be explored.

"This represents such a massive investment and such a massive change to the estuary that we do need more information," he said. "We have got to get a little cleverer about how we address the environment. There is potential for energy generation but we have to come up with environmentally sustainable, acceptable and sensible solutions."

The Angling Trust, WWT, and RSPB have agreed a joint position regarding the Severn Barrage with several other environmental organisations including WWF-UK, the Wildlife Trusts, Wye & Usk Foundation, Marine Conservation Society, Severn Rivers Trust, Salmon & Trout Association and Campaign to Protect Rural England.