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The Severn Estuary is the most important wintering ground in Britain for Dunlin. Photo by Lajos.Rozsa (
The Severn Estuary is the most important wintering ground in Britain for Dunlin. Photo by Lajos.Rozsa ( image

No to new Severn barrage plans

Birdwatch news team
Posted on: 27 Dec 2012

The RSPB is deeply sceptical that a Cardiff to Weston barrage across the Severn River could be built without unacceptable damage to wildlife and the environment, the charity has announced.

The society was speaking in reaction to a report in the Financial Times on 17 December that Hafren Power is seeking £25billion in investment to build a barrage from Cardiff in south Wales to Weston-super-Mare in Somerset that would be 11 miles wide. Executives believe their proposals could generate 5 per cent of the UK’s electricity for more than a century.

The Severn Estuary is one of the largest estuaries in Europe and is of international importance for its wildlife and is a unique landscape. The estuary supports more than 10 per cent of the British wintering population and is the single most important wintering ground for Dunlin, and for significant numbers of Bewick’s Swans, European White-fronted Geese and Eurasian Wigeon. Nationally important wintering populations of ducks such as Gadwall, Shoveler and Pochard are also supported.

The RSPB responded that it’s time to work with businesses, academics and other stakeholders around the Severn to produce a more compelling vision that both secures renewable power generation and safeguards its status as an internationally important estuary system.

Mark Robins, RSPB Policy Officer for the South-West said: “It’s hard to see a Cardiff to Weston barrage as anything other than a spectre hanging over a much more 21st century vision for the Severn.

“An £8m study by DECC for the last government concluded there was no sensible business case for such a barrage. Last week Prime Minister David Cameron said the barrage idea was “a long way off any sort of rational fruition”.

“Yet another re-launch of this zombie-like idea, once more back from the grave, hardly helps stimulate creative discussion about the Severn, one that is innovating, focused on solutions, and that unlocks potential for this UK hot-spot for both business and environment.

“The RSPB has a simple test to offer marine energy projects in the Severn – to ensure the delivery of the maximum capacity of renewable energy for the minimum impact on the natural environment. At this time it is unclear that Hafren Power’s barrage scheme would be deliverable, be affordable for the consumer, and acceptable in terms of its environmental impact.”

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