MP hopes to out-fox new bid for a Severn Barrage
NORTH Somerset MP Liam Fox has waded into the row over the Severn Barrage scheme, launching a campaign to stop the multi-billion pound project.
The Tory heavyweight said the scheme "threatens thousands of jobs in Bristol and North Somerset, threatens the local economy, and will be disastrous for the environment in the Severn Estuary".
And he vowed to tackle the campaign mounted by Labour veteran Peter Hain, who is pressing for the £30 billion barrage to become reality, by opposing all of his speeches in the House of Commons.
Prime Minister David Cameron has instructed his officials to take a fresh look at the scheme.
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But Dr Fox piled the pressure on by calling on new Bristol Mayor George Ferguson to join opponents including the RSPB and some local businesses in the campaign.
Pointing to fears over the impact on Bristol Port of lower water levels, he said 500 jobs would be directly affected and a further 7,500 in the supply chain, with Portbury, Portishead and Pill worst affected.
He said: "Bristol has had a thriving port for centuries and the Severn Estuary is an essential habitat for hundreds of species of fish and birds. The economic and environmental damage caused upstream of a Severn Barrage threatens both and these arguments need to be made in parliament and, if necessary, in the courts.
"Energy security is vital to our national interest and green energy will play a role in that, but there are better, more modern, technologies that could harness the power of the estuary without damaging the environment or our local economy."
As reported in The Post, the Corlan Hafren consortium has come up with a new scheme that would link Weston-super-Mare with Penarth and create a barrage capable of generating a fifth of the power needed in the UK.
It has been opposed by Bristol's local enterprise partnership, which represents local businesses and councils, because of its "enormous" environmental impact. Bristol Port has also opposed the plans.
Dr Fox's office said a report to be published on Monday by the RegenSW group would propose a number of viable alternatives and say "the numbers don't add up" for the barrage.
Mr Hain, the MP for Neath, resigned from the Labour front bench to campaign for the barrage to become a reality, claiming it would create thousands of jobs on both sides of the water. He plans to attempt to steer a Bill through Parliament for the legislation that would be needed for the barrage.