Campaigners react to Severn Estuary barrage axe

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Environmental campaigners have by-and-large welcomed the UK government's decision to scrap plans for a Severn barrage.

The announcement was made by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, who labelled the £30bn cost of the scheme "excessive".

Shadow Welsh secretary Peter Hain said environmental concerns surrounding the plans could have been worked through.

Friends of the Earth Cymru

But Friends of the Earth Cymru said the proposed barrage would have damaged wildlife sites protected by law.

Gordon James, the group's director, welcomed Mr Huhne's decision to axe the plan.

"It would have caused an awful lot of damage to very important wildlife sites in this area, sites that are supposed to be protected by law," he said.

"It's a huge project. It would have taken perhaps up to 20 years before it would have generated clean electricity, and we can't wait that long.

"We need clean energy much sooner than that."

RSPB Cymru

Dr Sean Christian, RSPB Cymru's Head of Conservation, said harnessing the huge tidal power of the Severn had to be right, but added: "It cannot be right to trash the natural environment in the process."

He said the proposed barrage would have destroyed huge areas of estuary marsh and mudflats used by 69,000 birds each winter, and block the migration routes of countless fish.

It would also dramatically increase risk of flooding to residential properties, he said.

"The government study needed to demonstrate that a big barrage could form a cost effective part of a radical plan to tackle climate change," said Dr Christian.

"It is clear today that a barrage does not make economic sense."

Dr Christian added that it was "a great shame" that proposals "had fixated on outdated environmentally destructive technology".

"We now want the government to announce that only truly sustainable solutions which respect the estuary, its people and its wildlife will be considered in the future."


Martin Spray, chief executive of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), based in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, said it was a "shame" the Cardiff-Weston barrage plans had not been ruled out forever.

He said: "WWT has supported the search for sustainable energy sources but all along we've said that any energy generation scheme on the internationally-important Severn estuary must be cost-effective and minimise environmental damage.

"The Cardiff-Weston barrage would have failed on both counts."


Anne Meikle, head of WWF Cymru, welcomed the decision but urged the government to commit to finding an alternative sustainable solution that benefited the economy, the environment and local communities.

"If a sustainable solution for the Severn can be found - one that delivers cost-effective electricity with minimal environmental impacts and benefits for the communities - we would support it," she said.

Marine expert

Dr Rob Kirby, an independent expert on the Severn Estuary, who has worked on the project for the last 40 years, said the u-turn was down to "environmental fundamentalism".

He added: "It's quite unambiguous - the Cardiff to Weston (barrage) can only benefit the environment and those who say otherwise are not telling the truth."

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