Where next for the Severn barrage?

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Media captionMPs said Hafren Power had failed to make the case that the barrage would be good for the economy or the environment

Its supporters say it's a "no-brainer" but a cross-party committee of MPs begs to differ.

Yesterday's report - A Severn Barrage? - has annoyed, disappointed and frustrated the company behind a project to build an electricity-generating barrage between Lavernock Point near Penarth and Brean on the Somerset coast.

Hafren Power disputes that it previously accepted that a negative report would effectively kill off the scheme. That impression grew after a newspaper interview in which chief executive Tony Pryor was asked if a negative report from the committee would kill the project.

The newspaper quoted him as saying: "Probably. I don't think you'd ever get many private sector investors who would ever rate a return on you for this second [environmental and economic impact assessment] stage, and the rate of return on the second stage is really quite good."

"It's a binary risk, you either get the approval or you don't, there's no halfway house. If the select committee were to say [no], would you put your money in it?"

The MPs' report - which is largely negative - has arrived and Mr Pryor now admits that it will make it "somewhat more difficult" to attract investors. But he says this is not the end of the project but "the end of the beginning".

He told me: "This is only a committee of MPs, it is not government who make the decisions. We have five large global companies who are development partners on this project. They've been through all the reports, all the issues, all the qualifications. They are firmly in support and I suspect our investors will listen to experts rather than MPs."

The problem is that it is MPs - and the government - that will ultimately decide whether the scheme gets the green light.

Mr Pryor says he's confident the "right project at the right time" will still go ahead. "In a year's time, we will have the government saying, why haven't you done this before?"

We'll see. There's real anger in the Hafren Power camp over the report and a belief that it put too much emphasis on the commercial interests of Bristol Port and ignored public support for a barrage in Wales.

A public affairs and lobbying company engaged by Hafren Power tweeted yesterday: "Barrage in Severn could meet 5% of the UK's energy needs- a discredited committee chaired by Yeo says no ... need more UK visionaries". The tweet was said to have been issued in Positif's name in error and was later deleted. An identical tweet in the name of a Positif sub-contractor was still visible on twitter 24 hours later.

Some might detect an irony in a lobbyist for a company founded by two former bankrupts labelling a committee of MPs "discredited" but the report didn't mention their business background. (Hafren Power told the committee that one of the founders, Idwal Stedman, had run "a highly regarded architecture firm" but didn't mention that he was struck off by the Architects Registration Board.

The other founder - Richard Bazley - was Hafren Power's largest shareholder but left the board between Hafren Power giving evidence to the MPs and yesterday's report.

There's a belief too in some political circles that the Welsh government could have been more pro-active in pushing for the scheme. First Minister Carwyn Jones said he was disappointed by the MPs' findings but acknowledged that more work needed to be done.

Neath MP Peter Hain, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on the Severn barrage and tidal energy, said the ball was now firmly in the UK government's court.

"The plans are in place, the £25bn from private investors is on standby but won't be around forever. The truth is this incredibly important project - promising 50,000 jobs to build the biggest ever clean green energy supply - can only succeed if the government want it to.

"They can't sit on the fence any longer. Ed Davey needs to take the lead and work with Hafren Power to satisfy the select committee's concerns. Unless he does so soon, this project is going nowhere. I have spent the past year trying to persuade the government to make a decision. It's high time they did so."

The government is expected to respond to the report within weeks although there's no indication yet that ministers have changed their sceptical view of Hafren Power's approach since Greg Barker gave evidence to the inquiry three months ago.