CAMPAIGNERS against a proposed Severn Barrage are calling on London-based civil servants and consultants to ‘come clean’ over the economic impact of such a project on the area’s maritime industry.
The Stop the Barrage NOW campaign wants to see reports published which it claims reveal the ‘true costs’ of a proposed barrage (artist's impression shown) across the River Severn.
The call follows meetings organised by the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study Group, a team of civil servants based in the Department of Energy and Climate Change, to brief stakeholders.
Analysts from consultancy DTZ, which is carrying out an economic impact assessment of different options for the barrage, are alleged to have said during the meetings that a Cardiff to Weston-super-Mare barrage would cost thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds to the regional economy.
Ports and other maritime businesses in the Westcountry were said to be extremely worried about such a prospect.
However, neither DTZ nor the study group has allowed them comment on, or even to see, the economic impact assessment report before the Government decides in January on a shortlist of renewable energy options to take forward.
Ten potential schemes are currently being looked at, including conventional barrages, tidal fences, tidal lagoons - and a tidal reef.
The 12-mile tidal reef idea has been put forward by Cornish engineers Joseph Evans and Sons Ltd and would run from Minehead to Wales.
Evans and Co owner Rupert Evans said the tidal reef would cost less than a barrage, have less environmental and economic impact, and generate more power more reliably.
It is an alternative favoured by the Stop the Barrage NOW campaign, which says the reef, lagoons - possibly built ‘sequentially to achieve the maximum environmentally benign energy extraction’ - a tidal fence (described as a ‘compromise between conservation, commercial interests and renewable targets’), and wind farms at sea would all be better options than an ‘all or nothing’ barrage.