Latest barrage scheme angers marine charity

PUBLISHED: 11:00 19 September 2012

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AN ENVIRONMENTAL charity has criticised the latest proposal for a Severn Barrage, saying it could lead to Weston and Brean beaches 'being strewn with dead fish'.

In a recent report, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) states it is the wrong project in the wrong place.

Prime Minister David Cameron has asked officials to look at reviving the plans, even though the project was rejected last year after it was revealed the barrage could lead to a number of environmental problems and construction costs could be as high as £30billion.

But the plans were revived when the consortium Corlan Hafren brought forward the idea of a privately funded 10-mile barrage between Brean Down and Lavernock Point, near Cardiff, costing about £26billion.

In the report Dr Robert Keirle, MCS pollution programme manager, said: “Although the barrage’s promoters have said the turbines have been re-designed to be more fish-friendly we’re still concerned that, once operational, the barrage may have an unacceptable impact on fish stocks within the Severn estuary.

“We could see mutilated fish washing up along huge stretches of coastline.

“Favourite beaches like Weston and Brean Sands could end up being strewn with dead fish.”

The Prime Minister has asked Energy Secretary Ed Davey and Oliver Letwin, the Conservative policy chief, to look at the scheme in detail.

At a presentation to the Weston and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce, engineering consultant Dr Roger Falconer, who is a Halcrow professor of water management and part of the consortium, said the barrage would last at least 125 years.

Dr Falconer said the barrage could reduce up to 14,000 inter-tidal habitats, but could also produce clearer water.

He said: “We are talking about a dramatic change. The barrage will have a lasting impact and could bring in excess of 50,000 jobs for the whole area, which will mostly be in the Weston and Cardiff region.”

Dr Keirle said: “Fish and eel migratory routes may be blocked completely, with about 14,000 hectares of inter-tidal habitat lost upstream of the barrage.

“MCS would prefer to see a mixed bag approach, consisting of on and offshore wind turbines, tidal lagoons, and wave and tide turbines.”

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