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Government backs angling and wildlife concerns and scuppers Severn Barrage plans


BBC News Severn Barrage


Angling and environmental groups have given an enthusiastic welcome to the announcement today from the Government that leaves plans by the Hafren Power consortium to build a barrage across the Severn Estuary effectively ‘dead in the water’

In a response to a damning report by the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee the government has endorsed almost all the committee’s criticisms of the barrage plans ending any prospect of Hafren Power being able to sponsor a parliamentary bill aimed at securing approval for an 18kms concrete barrage across the Severn Estuary. The project would have caused huge damage to migratory fish runs in the Severn, Wye and Usk catchments and adversely affected marine species in the Bristol Channel.

The Severn Estuary is one of the largest estuaries in Europe and is of international importance for its wildlife and is a unique landscape.  Its saltmarshes and mudflats are used by 69,000 birds each winter, its waters support over 100 fish species and vast numbers of invertebrates, and the estuary is a vital migration route for fish including salmon and eels.  In 2010 a Government study into the feasibility of building a barrage across the Severn confirmed that the impacts of a conventional ‘high head’ barrage could be catastrophic, including the local extinction of some species of fish and an increase in flood risk over an area of 370 square kilometres containing 45,000 residential properties.  

The Angling Trust has been working closely with the other main environmental and fisheries groups in highlighting the very real threats posed by building a massive concrete barrage across the Severn estuary complete with over 1,000 ‘fish-mincing turbines’ operating 24 hours a day. The coalition included the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), RSPB, Worldwide Fund for Nature, Wildlife Trusts, Wye & Usk Foundation, Marine Conservation Society, Severn Rivers Trust, Salmon & Trout Association, National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. In January Angling Trust’s Martin Salter gave evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Committee highlighting the threats to fish passage which was included in the final report.

Angling Trust Campaigns Chief Martin Salter said:
“This is a great result for angling and for everyone who cares about our rivers and estuaries. With 25% of the entire salmonid fish habitat for England and Wales dependent on the Severn Estuary there is little doubt that any barrage proposal would be in breach of the European Habitats Directive which requires protected environments and species to be provided with a compensatory habitat. Now it may just have been possible to re-create suitable habitat for wading birds somewhere else but never in a thousand years were Hafren Power going to be able to create another salmon or sea trout river. That’s why the Angling Trust has fought so hard to press this arguments home and why we are able to claim, at least in part, that ‘It was the fish what won it!’ Let this be a warning to those who think they can simply tear up the hard won protections that we have in place.”

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal added:
"Angling, wildlife and environmental groups have been united in their call for the Severn Barrage concept to be abandoned, calling instead for a renewed focus on environmentally sound and commercially viable way to harness a variety of sources of power in the Bristol Channel. We now welcome the Government’s recognition that the proposals put forward by Hafren Power were utterly inadequate. The Select Committee Inquiry clearly exposed the numerous unsubstantiated claims regarding the supposed economic and environmental benefits for the barrage and the massive threats to migratory fish and birds inherent in a scheme of this size."

Charles Walker MP, Vice-Chair, APPG Angling, said:

"On behalf of the All Party angling Group in Parliament I want to thank the Angling Trust and the other environmental groups for bringing all the problems with the proposed Severn Barrage to our attention. The potential effects on the biodiversity, fish and birdlife and the local economy have been striking. It is no wonder that this form of power generation has been considered and dismissed by other countries - from Canada and France to South Korea. Hopefully now the barrage is dead in the water the UK government can forge ahead with its support for sustainable energy generation that is genuinely wildlife and fish friendly"



1. Martin Salter’s oral evidence and the Angling Trust’s written submission are extensively quoted in the Energy & Climate Change Select Committee report which can be found HERE 
2. The full Government report can be found  HERE 
3. National coverage including video of the Select Committee evidence HERE



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