Fox campaigns to block barrage
PUBLISHED: 12:55 23 November 2012
A PROPOSED scheme to build a barrage across the Severn Estuary has come under fire from North Somerset’s MP due to fears it could threaten the livelihood of thousands of people.
Dr Liam Fox has today (Fri) launched a campaign aimed at blocking the proposal, which could see a barrage constructed between Brean Down near Weston and Lavernock Point near Cardiff.
The idea has been mooted for many years in the hope the estuary’s huge tidal fluctuation could be harnessed to generate energy.
Dr Fox fears the construction of a barrage could result in water levels becoming substantially lower, threatening the operations of nearby ports and the jobs of many workers in the Portishead, Portbury and Pill areas.
Plans for the barrage had previously been shelved but are now due to be reconsidered by the Government’s Energy and Climate Change Select Committee after the Hafren Power consortium resurrected them as a £25billion privately-funded scheme.
Dr Fox believes there are more modern technologies available which could harness the estuary’s power without damaging the local environment and economy.
He said: “The proposal from the Hafren Consortium is not at all clear, especially on the impact on water levels at Avonmouth.
“Independent estimates suggest that water levels may be as much as two metres lower, which will have a profound impact on the ability of Bristol Port to handle modern cargo ships.
“This threatens 500 jobs directly and 7,500 jobs in the wider Bristol and North Somerset economy but especially in Portbury, Portishead and Pill.
“The economic and environmental damage caused upstream of a Severn Barrage threatens both [the port and estuary habitat] and these arguments need to be made in parliament and, if necessary, in the courts.”
The Government’s decision to reopen deliberations on the barrage was taken recently and has given just more than a month for businesses and environmental groups to give their evidence against the proposal.
Dr Fox believes this timescale is too short and has said he will oppose the plans if the Select Committee moves in favour of them. A special act of Parliament, called the Hybrid Bill, has been proposed by MP Peter Hain to advance Hafren Power’s scheme and Dr Fox says he will also oppose this.
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