Severn barrage debate

I’m not sure where I stand on this debate. A two-year feasibility study on a possible Severn Barrage was launched last year following a report from the Sustainable Development Commission. The proposed Severn Barrage project would stretch nearly 10 miles from Lavernock Point west of Cardiff to near Brean Down in Somerset. It would cost around £14 billion.

Backers include the Welsh Assembly and the Southwest Regional Assembly, a number of cross-party MPs and Gaia theorist James Lovelock. Opponents include the Green Party, Friends of the Earth, the WWF and the RSPB.

The Friends of the Earth website explains some of the risks:

Why would the Barrage be environmentally damaging?

  • The Barrage wall would create a 5 metre deep lake to its eastward side, losing an inter-tidal habitat, feeding grounds for tens of thousands of birds
  • The Barrage would halve the tidal range and sensitive flora and fauna would be lost, and the famous Severn Bore diminished
  • The Barrage could also have a significant impact on fish species of conservation interest, through use of fish sluices within the barrage wall
  • The Barrage could significantly damage the viability of ports. It would also generate new traffic on existing road networks around Lavernock and Cardiff airport and cause development pressures in rural Somerset
  • The government’s own statutory advisers state that ‘a Severn Barrage project would not be possible within the current legal framework provided by the EU Habitats and Birds Directives. The estuary is also being proposed for designation as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), the highest protection in European Union law

It recommends a number of other means on generating energy from the Estuary, such as tidal lagoons located a mile off the Severn coast, a shorter flood defence barrage near the Second Severn Crossing, marine current turbines, wind energy or Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) fitted to coal or gas power stations.

My gut reaction is that Sabrina should be protected, that her tidal activity is the essence of her nature, and that as a result she would be desecrated by such a violation.

I have a particular interest in this issue, as the proposed Barrage would link my family home in Somerset with my chosen home in Cardiff, and Sabrina has been a constant presence throughout my life. I am also a member of the Flatholm Society, although I don’t know if they have an official view on this. I will try to find out.

The possibility of so much renewable energy is massively attractive, but not at the expense of our land and its heritage. I think the money would be better spent on education programmes teaching us how to live within our energy means, simplifying and reducing our need for energy. This, combined with a wind generation and CCS programme would be my favoured approach. While there is still so much invested in a growth economy, however, this seems doubtful.

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3 comments so far

  1. tangiblesanctity on

    According to the This Is Bristol website (http://tinyurl.com/3q3dvj) officials met on Wednesday to discuss the ten proposals currently under consideration. Some of these options will be eliminated by the end of January to create a final shortlist.

  2. tangiblesanctity on

    From The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jan/05/severn-barrage-consultation):

    “Tidal Electric wants to generate electricity by using tidal lagoons built on the estuary floor from rock. Up to 13 lagoons would be dotted around the Severn estuary, not across it. These would trap water at high tide and release it later through electricity-generating turbines.

    Studies carried out by the engineers AS Atkins, for Tidal Electric, have suggested that the lagoons could generate twice as much power, per square mile impounded, than the barrage, and therefore generate about 25 to 40 per cent more energy without damaging the shoreline.”

  3. Rupert Armstrong Evans on

    The ‘Severn Tidal Power Reef’ is one of the 10 proposals and the RSPB commissioned a report from W.S.Atkins that concluded that the low operating head that is critical to it being environmentally friendly did not compromise its generating potential. It also stated that it could generate more power than any of the other proposals and be cheaper to build.


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