Severn Barrage stakeholders have this week warned that project promoter Hafren Power’s poor consultation strategy could scupper the scheme.
Lobby group Regen SW director Johnny Gowdy said Hafren Power had acted “terribly” in its efforts to engage stakeholders who would be affected by the barrage and had “lost all goodwill”.
Gowdy claims Hafren Power has not significantly altered the scheme scrapped by the government in 2010 and therefore fails to address any of the objections that ruled it out then.
Specific objecttions include build up of sediment upstream of the barrageas well as concerns about loss of habitats for migrating birds.
“They don’t seem to have reassured [stakeholders] that problems that scuppered the previous scheme can be overcome,” added Gowdy.
Energy secretary Chris Huhne scrapped proposals for a £34bn barrage. He said there was no “strategic case” for a project that would be hard to deliver and “very challenging to fund” (NCE 21 October 2010).
But Huhne kept the door open for a scheme encouraging private firms like Hafren to come forward with an alternative.
The Commons energy select committee is now scrutinising Hafren Power’s plans for a £25bn barrage.
“My concern now is that if the select committee comes through with a negative assessment of the barrage - which I suspect they will - all the other alternatives will be forgotten about and we are back to square one,” added Gowdy,
One the main objectors the scheme is Bristol Port Company.
“Hafren Power hasn’t engaged at all,” said Bristol Port Company director of engineering John Chaplin.
Bristol Port Company is concerned that large vessels will be unable to dock at the port if the barrage is built because the water depths will be reduced.
It means any jobs created in the region by the scheme would have to be be offset against potential job losses at the port.
But Hafren Power chief executive Tony Pryor strongly disputed any assertion that the firm had failed to consult stakeholders.
Pryor said he “sympathised” with Bristol Port’s view but insisted both firms could work through a solution. He said loss of work through disruption in the estuary could be offset by its use a construction port.