Severn Barrage "would destroy port jobs"
BRISTOL Ports Company has urged MPs to reject plans for a Severn Barrage, saying it would "destroy" jobs while causing "unprecedented" environmental damage.
Giving evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee at Westminster, the company's chief executive, Simon Bird, voiced strong opposition to the barrage campaign led by former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain.
Mr Bird told MPs: "I'm in favour of harnessing the power of the Severn to create energy but building a giant concrete barrage across the estuary makes no sense.
"It is time the Government clearly stated that the barrage will not be built and got behind the alternative technologies."
Mr Bird said more than 7,500 jobs that depend on the port would be at risk if the barrage went ahead.
His comments came as North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox attacked Mr Hain's proposals in an angry letter to a national newspaper.
He said plans by the scheme's backers to replicate 50 square kilometres of mud flats were "pure fantasy", fish-friendly turbines were "hypothetical" and the claim a barrage could alleviate flooding in North Somerset had made him angry.
Dr Fox added: "At a time when we need to be protecting jobs and assisting businesses that create economic activity, it is frustrating that we are causing uncertainty for Bristol Port and the many businesses in my constituency that depend on it.
"There are many options for harnessing tidal energy in the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel…but we cannot keep wasting public money on nothing more than a hypothesis, especially when it also comes at the cost of business growth and job creation in North Somerset, Bristol and elsewhere."
The port company claims it would be threatened with closure if the barrage was built, as the large ships which dock there would not have deep water often enough to make the business viable.
But giving his own evidence to MPs, Mr Hain said he could not understand why there was such strong opposition from the Bristol area.
He said: "Shipping will be unaffected and there will be positive opportunities for Bristol. It's not helpful to frame this in terms of Bristol ports versus Port Talbot ports – we need to get the maximum benefit for both."
"There's a win-win here for both Bristol and Port Talbot.
"I would urge people to get involved in a proper discussion rather than firing shots from the sidelines, which I don't think is in the interests of the BPC."