RSP Home River Severn Tales Chris Witts

The Severn Barrage

The Severn barrage which could supply five per cent of the UK's energy needs have been given strong support by an influential government advisory group. If built this 10 mile long barrage, costing some £15 billion, would produce clean and sustainable electricity for the next 120 years, according to the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC).

Environmental groups are bitterly opposed to the barrage and say its construction would have a devastating effect on the huge variety of wildlife which depends on the Severn wetlands. The SDC have said that any wildlife habitat lost by building the barrage would have to be recreated elsewhere.

The report does recommend that:

·  The Severn barrage must be a publicly funded and owned project to avoid damaging short-term solutions.

·  It will have to comply fully with EU Directives on habitat with a long-term commitment to providing compensatory habitats.

·  The government must not use the barrage to divert attention away from other urgently-needed action on climate change.

·  The government should stay the course, provide funding and discounted loan rates, work with developers, and act quickly.




The Severn estuary with its 42 feet high tides, the second largest in the world, makes up 80 per cent of the UK's tidal resource and the barrage alone could generate five per cent of the country's electricity. The report says there are two possible barrage schemes. The largest would be the Cardiff-Weston plan stretching 10 miles across the mouth of the estuary. The other option would be higher up the estuary at The Shoots, which would be a much smaller project. If built, the barrage could be in operation by 2020. There were ancillary advantages in that it could even provide the basis for new rail or road link from England to Wales.



Environmental groups remain sceptical and are calls for tidal lagoons instead of a barrage, which it is claimed would be cheaper and more environmentally friendly. But the SDC said although it was not against lagoons, the case for them had not been made. Dr Mark Avery, Conservation Director at the RSPB, said barrage construction would be shackled by the huge costs and legal obstacles. The SDC say that their report is not a green light for the barrage but something between red and amber.

Construction of the barrage will cause the emission of ten million tonnes of carbon. Greenhouse gas savings could be substantial in the long run, but those savings could be too late to avert the damage of climate change. The Severn barrage could be a huge resource of carbon free energy, but no one is sure if this is the best way to reap the tidal power of the river without having huge environmental impacts on wading birds.


One thing is for sure, it would be the end of the mighty Severn bore!

For more information about the proposed Severn Barrage visit:

                                    The Sustainable Development Commission’s report

                                    Backing For Severn Barrage Power

                                    Severn Estuary Tidal Power Feasibility Study


See also

More news about the barrage

Recession could sink the barrage

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