8:50am Monday 7th January 2013
THE most detailed plans yet have been revealed for the £30 billion barrage proposed across the Severn Estuary from Lavernock Point to Somerset.
In a Commons speech just before Christmas, former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said that the barrage would deliver major benefits - providing 5 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs, while transforming the economy of South Wales.
His speech came after it was revealed that the Vale Council has sent a detailed report to the Commons’ Energy and Climate Change Committee, which is investigating the Severn Barrage proposal, the likely cost to consumers, plus the potential impact on wildlife and employment.
The council raised concerns ranging from the potential impact on ports upstream of the barrage, including Barry, Cardiff and Avonmouth, the possible damage to the local landscape, and the strain it could put on an already-stretched road network.
And a submission by Robbee Smole, the organisation that represents the port of Bristol, was also made to the committee in December, which said port closures, loss of jobs in the fishing and marine aggregates industries, and environmental impact would all negate the benefits of the scheme claimed by those in favour of the proposal.
“There are alternative options to the Barrage which could deliver sustainable energy without such a negative impact upon the existing and developing economy," said the submission.
"The risks of going ahead with the Barrage as proposed are simply too great."
Numerous environmental groups have also called for other options to be looked at, to harness the Severn's tidal power.
But Mr Hain, who resigned from the Shadow Cabinet to campaign for the privately-funded scheme, responded in a speech to the Commons last week.
“The Barrage will power the UK for more than 120 years, cleanly, securely and sustainably generating as much electricity as three to four nuclear reactors or more than 3,000 wind turbines," he said.
"It injects more than £25bn of private investment into the UK economy – no Treasury funding is needed at all. With the multiplier impact on the economy, that is a stimulus of about £70bn.
“The Barrage will be a massive boost to the economies of South Wales and the South West of England, with 80 per cent of the investment being spent in the UK; other forms of renewable energy have to date imported up to 80 per cent of their equipment and services from abroad.
"Some 50,000 jobs will be created during the nine-year build, also leaving a legacy of industrial, tourism and leisure jobs."
As for the build itself, Mr Hain said: "Some 1,026 turbines will be installed in the Barrage – new, slow-spin turbine technology capable of being exported from Britain to the rest of the world.
"Gigantic caissons will be built and assembled and then floated out from its deep-water casting yard at Port Talbot, which will be transformative for South West Wales.
“Additionally, because of the more benign sea environment in the giant 570 sq km sea lake behind the barrage, there will be enormous new opportunities for marine leisure and commercial activity currently rendered impossible by the Severn’s fearsome current, bringing extra work to ports in both the South West and South Wales."
Mr Hain also revealed that the fate of the proposals could be determined in the first half of 2013, and urged the UK Government to back the scheme.
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