Cautious approval for Severn barrage

A report recommends the construction of a Severn barrage, but warns of environmental impacts

A report from the government body the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) recommends the construction of a tidal barrage across the Severn, but warns of environmental impacts.

The Severn barrage was among the proposals to the government on how to develop the UK’s tidal resources and emerging tidal technologies in the report, ‘Tidal Power in the UK.’

According to the SDC, a barrage in the Severn estuary could supply 4.4 per cent of the UK’s electricity supply (17TWh) and generate electricity for over 120 years.

However, the report warns that the project would have a major impact on the local environment, with the loss of up to 75 per cent of the existing intertidal habitat, which is protected. There would also be an impact on local communities and the regional economy, and additional associated development would likely take place alongside any barrage project.

The SDC laid down a series of conditions which a Severn barrage would have to meet in order to be considered sustainable. These include that a Severn barrage must be publicly led as a project and publicly owned as an asset to ensure long-term support of the public interest. It would also need to fully comply with European directives on habitats and birds.

The report said the government should investigate combining climate change mitigation with a habitat creation package that responds to the impacts of climate change over time. The SDC also recommended that any development of a Severn barrage should not divert government attention away from much wider action on climate change.