Severn estuary barrage plans temporarily shelved


WWT has welcomed the news that the Cardiff–Weston Barrage, the largest scheme with the biggest potential impact on the wildlife and habitats of the estuary, will be shelved. Disappointingly, however, the accompanying announcement from the Department of Energy and Climate Change suggests that the scheme could be revived at a later date.

Also shelved are the other smaller, potentially damaging, barrages and lagoons being considered under the study. A parallel study, which investigated more innovative options for harnessing tidal energy with potentially less environmental impact, has concluded that the technologies are not mature enough at this point to warrant further investigation.

The Severn estuary holds up to 26,000 Dunlin, making it one of the most important estuaries in the country for this species. Severn Beach, Gloucestershire (Photo: Brian Lancastle)

WWT Chief Executive Martin Spray commented: "The Severn Estuary is a very special place for wildlife, for people and for WWT. We are pleased to have been part of the debate on tidal power and to have contributed to this study. It is a shame that plans for the Cardiff–Weston Barrage have not been completely ruled out forever. But it is a huge step forward to have the costs — both economic and environmental — and risks formally recognised in the conclusion to this study."

"WWT has supported the search for sustainable energy sources but all along we've said that any energy generation scheme on the internationally important Severn estuary must be cost effective and minimise environmental damage. The Cardiff–Weston barrage would have failed on both counts."

The estuary is also home to up to 10,000 Wigeon in winter. Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Photo: Ian Butler)

"The estuary provides society with a huge number of benefits, from fisheries and tourism to its unique value for waterbirds, rare habitats and incredible landscapes. We believe that there is an urgent need for both increased energy efficiencies and low-carbon energy production to meet the challenge of climate change, but this must not come at the expense of destroying internationally important and legally protected areas, either now or in future."

Written by: WWT