[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 April 2006, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Concern over Severn barrage plan
Map of proposed barrage
The barrage would have a road and rail link on top
Three environmental groups have voiced their opposition to a proposal to build a tidal barrage across the Severn estuary to produce renewable energy.

Neath businessman Gareth Woodham has put forward a change of use application for the estuary to planners in Somerset to allow a 10-mile barrage to be built.

The Welsh assembly government has met counterparts across the Bristol Channel to discuss the plan.

Environmentalists say a barrage would cause irreversible damage to wildlife.

Mr Woodham's plan would see a barrage linking Lavernock Point in the Vale of Glamorgan with Bream Point in Somerset, creating a tidal lagoon behind it.

A road and rail link is also proposed over the top of it, along with 12 man-made islands and four marinas.

Gareth Woodham
With the energy prices as they are today, it has become economically very viable
Gareth Woodham

Mr Woodham said he had been amazed when his proposal was given serious attention.

Sedgemoor council in Somerset has referred the application to the UK government, and the leader of the South West Regional Assembly is taking a fact-finding mission to the La Rance tidal barrage near St Malo in Brittany.

Mr Woodham told BBC Wales: "There are already a number of major construction companies that are interested.

"With the energy prices as they are today, it has become economically very viable."

However environmental groups WWF, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Friends of the Earth Cymru are opposed to the plan, saying there are other technologies which could be used in the Severn estuary with a much lower environmental impact.

The estuary is a special area for conservation and provides food for more than 63,000 migratory and wintering water birds, representing seven per cent of the UK's total estuary resources for wildlife.

Morgan Parry from WWF Cymru said the barrage was not the answer, adding: "The environmental damage caused by constructing a 10-mile concrete energy dinosaur will cause irreversible damage to Wales and England's most important estuaries."

The groups have objected to comments made by First Minister Rhodri Morgan at a conference last week, during which he said climate change problems meant looking at projects such as these was necessary.

They were incensed by a reference to the Three Gorges Dam in China, which Mr Morgan said had been massively criticised for displacing 1.5m people but which produced abundant "no-carbon energy", which would otherwise need to be made by many coal-fired power stations.

Mr Morgan also said of the barrage proposal: "Because of climate change, we have to look at all sorts of choices for future energy needs.


"Tidal energy needs to be considered as well. A barrage would not be cheap. There would be enormous cost but nevertheless it should still be considered alongside nuclear."

Friends of the Earth Cymru director Julian Rosser said: "It is most telling that he should have compared the project with the Three Gorges Dam in China, a prime example of human rights violations and disregard for wildlife."

Graphic of barrage site
The barrage would have a road and rail link on top

Mr Parry added: "We agree with the assembly that there's huge potential to take advantage of the tidal range in the Severn Estuary for energy generation as it the second highest tidal range in the world.

"We strongly recommend that more suitable technologies are deployed to capture the energy of the Severn estuary, such as stand-alone tidal generators, tidal fences and further research into tidal lagoons."

A spokesman for assembly energy minister Andrew Davies said: "The barrage could potentially be the largest single renewable energy source in the UK [and could meet] about six per cent of the present electricity consumption of the UK, the equivalent in electricity output to two nuclear power stations operating continuously for the life of the barrage.

"The Severn estuary has internationally-important environmental properties and it would be essential for the environmental - as well as the social, financial and engineering - implications of a Severn barrage to be thoroughly researched before any decision on construction could be contemplated."

See the proposed tidal barrage across the Severn Estuary

Sea energy 'could help power UK'
24 Jan 06 |  Science/Nature
Canada harnesses power of tides
13 Dec 05 |  Science/Nature
Tidal power plan for Swansea Bay
24 Nov 03 |  South West Wales

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific