Private firm could pick up plans for barrage across River Severn

First published in News by

A RADICAL turnaround could see plans for a barrage across the River Severn picked up again, two years after the project was shelved.

The news has not come as a surprise to opponents of the original scheme, but has caused renewed concerns among wildlife groups.

The £34.3 billion development was abandoned in 2010, to the disappointment of the scheme's supporters who had championed the need to harness the river’s power to produce renewable energy. 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, private firm Corlan Hafren, a consortium established to spearhead the development, was still hoping to press on with the barrage and deliver it through private investment.

Now, after campaigners' renewed efforts to put the proposal back on the agenda and a promise by the Prime Minister that he would look into the details of the project, it seems a Cardiff to Weston barrage could be on the cards after all.

Peter Tyzack, former councillor for Pilning and Severn Beach and ex-chairman of the Severn Estuary Partnership, said he was sceptical about building a barrage on the Severn.

He told the Gazette he had spoken to scientists who had studied estuaries in Canada and the Netherlands and had strongly advised against constructing a barrage in the Severn.

"Having heard all the dire stories about the things that other estuaries have experienced, I am highly sceptical," he said.

"An oceanographer told me that if you put a concrete wall against the estuary it will change the whole tidal regime. It will create all sorts of higher tide effects."

The building of the barrage could create around 20,000 jobs in the region at the peak of construction. It is also believed it would help create a further 30,000 jobs nationwide and generate five per cent of all the country’s energy needs.

Martin Spray, chief executive of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge, said it was with 'a heavy heart' that the centre started thinking about defending the reserve, set up by Sir Peter Scott 65 years ago.

He said the trust was not against tidal power but a barrage from Cardiff to Weston would cause irreparable damage to the reserve.

"We remain positive though," he said. "Not only is the estuary heavily protected under both British and EU law, but in recent years several promising tidal energy designs have emerged that aim to minimise damage to the natural environment.

"We urge David Cameron’s team to go back and read the report from the recent feasibility study very carefully before thinking about backing a barrage of this kind. And then together, we can work to find a solution."

For more information on the estuary visit www.severnestuary.net/sep/forum.html

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