MP Peter Hain is just out of touch
WRITING in The Post, South Wales Labour MP Peter Hain reveals just how out of touch he and the Labour Party are on the issue of the Severn Barrage.
Whilst it is obvious that any project to harness the great tidal power of the Severn Estuary will produce clean energy and also create jobs, not to take account of the environmental impact of the system to be used is devastatingly irresponsible.
The concerns raised about this have been more or less summarily dismissed by Mr Hain with a mere nod to the concerns of long-established environmental groups like Friends of the Earth and the RSPB. The fact that Mr Hain does not even mention the environmental effects in his letter speaks for itself.
The latest attempt to build a Severn Barrage is by Hafren Power Ltd, a consortium of large construction firms. Former Conservative minister John Gummer was a previous director of the firm's earlier incarnation as Corlan Hafren. Mr Hain is cuddling up to David Cameron in promoting this project, which aims to build a dam across the Severn Estuary, complete with yet another motorway encouraging yet more traffic. Mr Hain reveals how little he understands the Barrage technology when he apparently believes that energy is generated by it on both ebb and flood tide. By its nature, a barrage, even using low head turbines, can only generate significant energy 'one way' after the incoming tide has been dammed and then released on the ebb tide. The 'new' proposed Severn Barrage will follow exactly the line of the previous proposal from Brean Down just south of Weston, to Lavernock Point in Wales, just south of Cardiff. Damming the estuary here will cause flooding behind the barrage, and has implications for all towns along the estuary, including Gloucester and Cardiff, as well as Bristol, Weston, Newport, Clevedon, Portishead and Avonmouth. And this is not to mention the damage to the wetlands crucial to wildlife and birds. Slimbridge is internationally renowned as a sanctuary for migrating birds.
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If this is Labour Party policy, it shows that Labour do not care about the environment, nor, in this time of unpredictable rainfall, about flooding, of which we've had enough this year already. The proposal is estimated by the consortium report to cost around £25bn, although the previous project was abandoned after it became clear it would cost around £34bn.
For these reasons, the Green Party has always opposed a Severn Barrage, and supports other marine renewable energy technologies which already exist, such as tidal lagoons, tidal reefs and tidal fences. These technologies are far less damaging to the environment and have the significant advantage of generating electricity constantly on both ebb and flow tides, whilst the absence of any damming effect will minimise any flooding and damage to wetlands. The number of jobs which Labour's Mr Hain says would be created is an irrelevant red herring when talking of a barrage, since any major project to harness tidal energy in the Severn will create jobs on both sides of the estuary, as Mr Hain well knows.