Town could boom from barrage
BLUE seas, better job opportunities and a surge in house prices could be on the horizon with plans that would change the face of Weston forever
BLUE seas, better job opportunities and a surge in house prices could be on the horizon with plans that would change the face of Weston forever receiving support from the Government last week.An energy White Paper put before Parliament on Wednesday saw ministers support the idea of a 10-mile barrage between Brean Down and Lavernock Point in Wales. If the £14bn barrage becomes a reality, the tide will no longer disappear for miles from Weston beach.Several groups have come up with proposals to build a barrage including Welsh businessman Gareth Woodham, who is the head of The Severn Lake Company, and the Severn Tidal Power Group, a consortium of businesses headed by Balfour Beatty. The latest proposal by The Severn Lake Company would create a 145,000 hectare lake, includes four marinas, a lifeboat station, two lock gates in the barrage, shipping channels, 200 hydro-electric turbines and two wave farms. A road could also be built along the top between Weston and Wales. Now the principle of a barrage scheme has received support from ministers, including UK trade secretary Alistair Darling, it is expected that companies will be asked to join the project to help take it forward.Weston hotelier Sophia Michael, who owns Seaward Hotel, hopes the scheme would mean the controversial sea wall, planned to protect the town from flooding, would no longer be needed.She said: "I would welcome the barrage with open arms and it would be an amazing opportunity for Weston. We would have to have a marina to make the best use of it and best of all we would see the back of the horrible stone wall. Every business person in Weston is willing to work with the council so we do not ruin the thing the town should be most proud of, a Victorian seafront. The Severn Barrage is definitely the answer."Friends of Old Pier Society and National Piers Society executive member Mike Davies said: "If the barrage does get built, which is now looking very likely, a road link would be great news for the town. It would be better if the Weston end of the barrage was near Birnbeck Island near the old pier. "The project will obviously be very expensive, but if it does go ahead they may as well do it properly and stick a road on the top." Weston's Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) operations manager Pete Holder said: "My personal view is that a barrage would promote water sports and would make a smaller tidal range with less dangerous currents. "As far as the RNLI is concerned, we would have more involvement in coastline activities because of the increase in water sports. If the barrage did go ahead the RNLI would have to have a complete review and survey the impact of the structure. We would have to get more boats and more crew members because there would be more people using the water."The director of Weston Bay Water Sports Club, Rob Solomon, agrees. He said: "The barrage would be a great boost for the club, and without the huge variation in tides, we would be able to hold national and international water sport events in Weston. The town would become a major venue for sport which would really boost the economy of the town, attracting more tourists to the area." Michael Ripley, of Stephen & Co estate agents, based in The Centre, believes the demand for business properties will sore. He said: "A barrage would increase the potential for leisure activities, which in turn would make the town a desirable place for new businesses to move to. It would also make the sea clearer and the tide will always be in, which would look very attractive. Companies would be encouraged to come here and there would be plenty of facilities for their staff."I also think it would reduce the costs to lifeboat services, as they wouldn't have to keep pulling people out of the mud. "Obviously with a booming economy, house prices would increase. This would be great news for people who already own houses, but not so great for first time buyers." If the Severn Barrage scheme does eventually come to fruition it would see Britain become the first nation in the world to get much of its power from a tidal source.