MPs’ Severn Barrage rejection backed by West business groups

June 11, 2013

More business and environmental groups have backed the decision by a powerful committee of MPs to condemn highly-controversial plans to build a massive barrage across the River Severn near Bristol

The House of Commons’ Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC) yesterday said the 11-mile, £25bn project would not be good for the economy or the environment and concluded it should not go ahead in its current form.

Phil Smith, managing director of Business West, the business organisation which runs the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Bristol Initiative, said: “This proposal has been around for years and doesn’t seem to get any better.

“All we are seeing is constant uncertainty, damaging well thought out and resourced plans for massive investment in future infrastructure at the Port of Bristol.

“We would like the Government to end this uncertainty and commit its resources and expertise to exploring alternative models of energy generation from the Severn Estuary, working with local businesses, councils and universities to deliver a better and more viable solution.”

Bristol Port yesterday welcomed the ECCC’s report. It has formed an alliance with Renewable energy experts RegenSW, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the University of the West of England to investigate other technologies that will generate energy from the Severn without damaging the environment or the economy.

In its report, the ECCC recognised the energy potential of the Bristol Channel and backed calls for an alternative approach to be adopted using a combination of smaller projects using tidal lagoons and new tidal steam technology.

RegenSW, which submitted evidence to the committee, said: “The committee report has endorsed the views held by us, and many people both in the industry and environmental organisations, that the barrage is not the answer and we must find another way to harness the energy of the Bristol Channel to generate clean energy and jobs”

The CLA in the South West described the ECCC’s decision as a common sense outcome.

The CLA submission to the committee highlighted the economic and environmental concerns shared by its members along the Severn Estuary including the potential impact on the Port of Bristol.

CLA South West surveyor Graham Clark, who has been at the forefront of the consultation process, said: “The need to provide in excess of 9,000 hectares of new habitat would have led to compulsory acquisition of land on an unprecedented scale with no guarantee that the replacement habitat could ever be as good as what was lost. So, it is good news that this concern has been flagged up in the MPs’ report:”

Mr Clark said the MPs had also accepted CLA concerns that the proposals could change tidal flows on the River Severn and alter the effectiveness of land drainage around the Severn Estuary, potentially increasing river flood risk to low lying areas like the Somerset Levels & Moors and the Severn Vale in Gloucestershire.

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