Are people unaware of what looms ahead?

THE increasingly likely prospect of a Severn Barrage will have a serious impact on Weston, Burnham and surrounding areas and on tourism

THE increasingly likely prospect of a Severn Barrage will have a serious impact on Weston, Burnham and surrounding areas - and on tourism. Why are we not protesting? Are people unaware of what looms ahead?The barrage will run from the end of Brean Down, cross between Weston and Steep Holm to pass just east (left) of Flat Holm. It may be up to 1km wide according to some accounts, and would rise nearly 30 feet above the high water mark. It will carry a dual carriageway road and possibly a light railway. There are also proposals for up to 12 islands supporting high-rise building developments in the estuary alongside the shipping lane - more luxury flats, no doubt!Beside the visual impact, there are other still important questions unanswered. What effect will it have on the replenishment of sand on the beaches? It is possible that some of the ballast will be dredged from the Bristol Channel. What effect will that have on sediment movements in the area? And with the beach not cleansed by the tides, what state will it be in especially in the tourist season?The road will bring a major new traffic flow into an already congested area - a further disadvantage for tourism. How on earth will the M5 cope with any more traffic in summer? Sure, it will lead to development and jobs, but these, too, will have an effect on our countryside and local environment. As for the environmental impact - the estuary and channel are a special area for conservation, of significant European importance. They contain seven per cent of the UK's total resources for estuarine wildlife, including some 63,000 birds. Who can tell us the effect on the ecology of tidal river systems such as the Severn, Axe and other local rivers? The tides penetrate some distance inland.On the economic side, it will provide six per cent of the UK's energy needs (the equivalent of two nuclear power stations), but there are other ways of achieving that. A series of lagoons with much less impact would not only be cheaper to construct, but would also provide more energy from less area of impounded water at a lower cost. In the context of global warming, it has been estimated that even if the UK were to achieve its goal of carbon output cuts, 14 times greater benefit would be achieved by finding a way of internationally rewarding countries to not cut down the rainforest and an effective way of policing this. On that scale, the Severn Barrage is minuscule. Is the sacrifice of Weston, Burnham and the local environment of a large part of the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary really worth this?JILL BAILEY - Via email

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