A SURVEY has found many people in the Westcountry were unaware of proposals to build a tidal barrage across the Severn Estuary.
A huge 37 per cent of people said they were ‘totally unaware’ of the plans to create a tidal power-generating barrage from the Somerset coast to Wales.
A vast majority of those questioned - 85 per cent - were unaware such a barrage would generate power for less than six hours a day.
Only one-quarter believed that the extra cost of a barrage - almost 10 times as much as a new coal-fired power station - would be worth the expenditure.
The findings came from an independent survey commissioned by organisations and individuals campaigning to persuade the Government to focus on alternative tidal energy schemes in the estuary.
They believe plans for a barrage across the entire estuary from the Westcountry to Wales should be abandoned due to the high economic and environmental impact - already highlighted in a recent report from Frontier Economics.
The campaigners are also extremely concerned that a barrage, despite its expense, would not provide a secure power supply to the region because it would only generate power for six hours a day.
They support a range of alternatives, such as wind farms at sea, lagoons, or a tidal reef from Minehead to Wales as suggested by a Cornish engineering firm, Joseph Evans and Sons Ltd.
Over the next few months the Stop the Barrage NOW campaign will lobby to persuade the Government and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) that a barrage is not economically or environmentally viable.
Campaigners want any form of barrage to be excluded from a shortlist of proposals to generate renewable energy from the Severn, due to be published later this month.
Stuart Ballard, chairman of Save Our Severn, which supports the Stop the Barrage NOW campaign, said: “Very little has been done to tell the public in the Westcountry about the plans for a Severn Barrage, even though it would have a massive impact on the region.
“We want to inform the public and ensure that there is a proper debate about the consequences of building a barrage across the Severn Estuary.
“While people are generally in favour of renewable energy, they clearly believe the cost of a barrage is too high.
“And despite its cost, a barrage will not provide a secure power supply for the region - it will need to be supported by ‘conventional’ power stations.
“Businesses and the public need to understand the potential impact of a barrage, and if they are concerned, they need to make their voices heard now, before any more taxpayers’ money is spent.
“While we totally support the need to explore and develop more sustainable forms of energy, we believe that there are more elegant ways of generating tidal power from the Severn.”
More information is available from the Stop the Barrage NOW website at http://www.stopthebarrage.com/.
Research carried out by Frontier Economics on behalf of 10 environmental groups, including the National Trust, the RSPB, and the WWF, found a barrage would destroy almost 86,486 acres of highly protected wetlands.
A study by the Sustainable Development Commission concluded a barrage in the Severn Estuary would result in the loss of up to 75 per cent of the existing intertidal habitat, which is internationally protected.
The Government is currently carrying out a feasibility study into renewable energy possibilities in the Severn Estuary with 10 schemes under consideration, including four barrage proposals - Brean Down, near Weston- super-Mare, to Lavernock Point, near Cardiff; Minehead to Aberthaw; and Aust to Beachley.
A short list of the proposed options is due to be drawn up this month.
A barrage will generate power for only 23 per cent of the day during two irregular periods, according to the Sustainable Development Commission’s report Turning the Tide: Tidal Power in the UK, 2007.
The costs of a Severn barrage are currently estimated to be £20 billion.
In comparison, two conventional power stations generating the same amount of power (17 terawatt hours) would cost £3 billion - 15 per cent of the cost of a barrage.