Pair criticise plans for being ’eyewateringly’ expensive and damaging to the environment

Plans for a 10-mile Severn barrage to harness tidal power have been attacked by a cross-party pair of MPs who say it would be “eyewateringly” expensive and ecologically devastating.

Labour MP Martin Salter and Conservative MP Charles Walker have called for the government to instead look at tidal ‘reefs’ and ‘lagoons’ which they say would cause far less damage to the ecology of the estuary.

In January 2009, the government unveiled five shortlisted plans to harness the huge tidal range of the Severn Estuary. The frontrunner is a 10-mile barrage that would block the tide from Cardiff to Weston-super-Mare, which the government says could renewably generate up to 5% of the UK’s power needs.

However the MPs’ report, the “Severn Barrage Digest”, claims the scheme would be hugely expensive.

“Costs have escalated from an initial £8bn to the current, eyewatering, £20+ billion figure,” the report states.

It argues that blocking the estuary would be “highly damaging” to shipping because it would prevent ships reaching the Bristol Channel.

The report also claims that the barrage would produce electricity at up to three times the cost as nuclear, would give unreliable flows of electricity, and could clog up with sediment.

Salter and Walker, who are chair and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Angling, also said that the barrage could wipe out stocks of migrating fish.

“It would effectively block access for salmon to 24% of their spawning ground in England and Wales,” the report claims.

Instead the report suggests that the government use either tidal reefs or lagoons.