The Severn Estuary is a Special Area of Conservation due to the importance of its ecology. According to Morgan Parry, Head of WWF Cymru the inter-tidal area provides food for over 85,000 migratory and wintering water birds, and represents 7% of the UK's total estuaries. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has said that;
“Thousands of birds, spawning salmon and other fish will be put at risk if a huge and costly barrage is built across the Severn… A barrage would do enormous damage…”
The Government itself seems at best inconsistent, at worst confused. The proposal for a Barrage was not supported in the 2003 Energy Review because of its “very substantial impact on the local and regional environment” and yet the Government continues to ignore calls from leading environmental groups to stop the proposed Barrage.
The Severn Barrage also fails the Habitats and Birds Directive tests with regard to the essential requirements for approval. There are alternative sites. The Barrage would fail also the ‘overriding public interest’ test.
Any Barrage along the Severn will also have an effect on CO2 emissions. Thriving regional ports help to cut road and rail freight haulage CO2 emissions. If a Barrage were to make the Severn ports uncompetitive, or lessen their ability to handle a full range of imports, it would have a negative carbon impact.
The Sustainable Development Commission pointed out the damage to the Government’s climate change policy;
“This could result in a loss of trade and investment for the regional economy and the potential for increased carbon emissions, habitat loss, and other environment impacts as a result of port relocation or from a transfer of traffic to other (possibly less optimal) locations.”