A missed opportunity as the Public
In response to the close of the Government’s Severn
Tidal Power Feasibility Study Consultation the
Stop the Barrage NOW
campaign is disappointment at the Government’s current
public consultation on its shortlist of options for
generating renewable energy projects in the Severn Estuary
and we believe the Government has failed to invest satisfactory
energy, money and imagination into alternative solutions.
The potential to create renewable energy from the Severn
Estuary is huge, as is the potential from alternative
tidal and wave technologies to help us combat climate
change while conserving the birds, fishes, wildlife
and ecology of the Severn Estuary. A proposed Barrage
is unable to deliver both in equal measure and we should
not be willing to choose between climate change and
The Government’s public consultation, which finished
after three months on Thursday 23 April 2009, too narrowly
focused on three barrages schemes: Cardiff-Weston, Shoots
and Beachley, and two lagoon schemes – Fleming and Bridgewater
Bay. Frustratingly, only £500,000 has been earmarked
to fund further energy technology innovation, such as
a tidal reef scheme. It is clear that the Government
has not taken tidal stream and wave technologies seriously
enough in their deliberations.
Energy security is a serious and growing challenge.
To address this rising problem over the next couple
of decades the Government must be more courageous in
its pursuit of a diverse renewable technologies mix.
The potential for alternative wave and tidal green technology
to help stimulate the economy and create jobs is significant.
The Government should seek to encourage innovation and
investment in new wave and tidal renewable schemes.
This Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study Consultation
is a real opportunity to encourage new approaches –
and thus stimulate the green economy – not simply resort
to old solutions, like a Barrage.
Furthermore, the decision to continue the costly and
damaging proposals for a number of Barrages shows scant
regard for the unique natural environment and biodiversity
of the Severn. This attitude will inflict a blow to
the region’s economic prosperity and the future development
of the maritime community.
The Severn Estuary is home to four commercial ports:
Bristol, Cardiff, Newport, and Sharpness / Gloucester.
It is estimated that the Cardiff-Weston Barrage would
have a huge negative impact on both Bristol and the
South Wales ports jeopardising over 15,000 jobs with
the knock-on effects threatening the wider region’s
A Barrage would also be ruinous for the natural environment
of the Severn, and require identifying up to an unprecedented
20,000 square hectares of compensatory land under the
EU Habitats Directive. The proposed Barrage poses the
almost certain risk of devastating most of the fish
in the estuary – salmon, eel, Allis and Twaite shad,
lamprey and sea trout, while hitting the important regional
leisure fishing industry.
Siltation is also a grave problem. No Barrage proposal
has satisfactorily addressed the likelihood that, if
dammed by a Barrage, the Severn Estuary would silt up
very quickly. Severe silting will seriously compromise
the operational efficiency of Barrage turbines – making
the claimed power output figures and the 100-year lifespan
very suspect indeed. This is compounded by experts who
argue that the Barrage would produce energy for no more
than 6 hours in every 24, therefore, costing twice as
much as wind power.
The Government’s consultation has lacked any real opportunities
for sustained and substantial public engagement in this
debate, especially for those in the south west and south
Wales who would be most affected by any of the proposed
schemes. It has been a technical consultation which
has failed to properly examine the impact of the proposed
schemes on the local economy, environment, tourism and
public wellbeing. It will be too late to consult the
public meaningfully if they are presented with a simple
‘yes’ or ‘no’ at a later stage with a even more limited
choice than what is currently being considered. This
is unacceptable and needs to be urgently addressed.
The Government has a once in a lifetime opportunity
to achieve the right renewable energy policy in the
Severn Estuary. There are real alternatives to a Severn
Barrage. Government must be more positive towards a
diverse mix of new renewable technologies such as tidal
stream and wave opportunities before it becomes too
late to save our fish, our unique natural habitats and
thousands of jobs around the Severn Estuary.