Anglers and wildlife groups celebrate damning verdict on the Severn Barrage
Anglers and wildlife groups are celebrating the damning verdict of the influential House of Commons Energy & Climate Change Committee on Hafren Power’s proposals for an 18 km concrete barrage across the Severn Estuary which could have seen the end of viable salmon, seatrout, shad and eel runs on the Wye, Severn, Usk and their tributaries as well as doing irreparable damage to important marine species such as bass, pollack and rays.
The Select Committee, which heard powerful evidence from the Angling Trust, concluded that the consortium’s plans are inadequate, poorly researched and completely fail to address the environmental issues that would arise from such a construction including the damage to fish and birdlife. A technical report from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology was released at the same time, highlighting the massive environmental impact of a barrage in such a sensitive environment.
The Angling Trust, as the representative body for all anglers in England, has challenged the Hafren Power proposals robustly over the past year, repeatedly calling for evidence to back up the many spurious claims made for the barrage including that the 1,000 turbines proposed might be ‘fish friendly’. Former MP Martin Salter, who is now the National Campaigns Co-ordinator for the Angling Trust, gave evidence at the Select Committee inquiry alongside the RSPB, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the National Trust.
His oral evidence and the Trust’s written submission are extensively quoted in the report: • “Martin Salter…described claims about the ‘fish-friendly’ characteristics of Hafren’s turbines as ‘guff’ and ‘spin’, reflecting a sense of distrust toward the Consortium on the part of some environmental groups”; • “The Angling Trust feared the further degradation of fish stocks and the resultant impact on the angling economy, which it described as a “vitally important part of the social and economic fabric of communities along rivers throughout the Severn basin and along the coastline” • Martin Salter described the species composition of the estuary: In terms of fish, there are 83 species of fish recorded in the Severn estuary. It is an incredibly dynamic habitat, both for migratory fish and freshwater fish upstream of the intertidal zone and obviously as a nursery area for bass and many other important sea fish. There are five Annex II species. These are the highly protected species under the Habitats Directive [including] the twaite shad, the lamprey and the salmon. There are 11 Biodiversity Action Plan protected species.” The Angling Trust has played a leading role within the coalition of environmental organisations opposed to the Severn Barrage.
All these organisations share the view that there is an urgent need to increase the country’s renewable energy sources and agree that the Severn estuary offers significant opportunities to generate power but not with schemes that cause unacceptable damage to the natural environment. The Angling Trust argued for testing a wide range of smaller scale renewable energy projects that can be monitored, modified and extended only when proven to be economically and ecologically-viable. This was an approach shared by the Select Committee who said: “Government should consider a more proactive approach to managing Severn Tidal Resources to harness its massive tidal range in the most sustainable and cost-effective way”
They added: “Hafren Power has not overcome the serious environmental concerns that have been raised. Further research, data and modelling are needed before environmental impacts can accurately assessed – especially regarding fluvial flood risk, intertidal habitats and impact to fish. The need for compensatory habitat on an unprecedented scale casts doubt on whether the project could achieve compliance with the EU Habitats Directive.” In response the UK Government said: “We welcome the committee’s report which supports our views on the current proposal for a Severn Barrage by the Hafren Power consortium. We are very keen to maximise the opportunity to extract energy from the seas around our coast, and our rivers – including the Severn Estuary. “Harnessing the power of the Severn Estuary could be a very significant asset for the UK. The Government is open to working with affordable, environmentally responsible projects that represent good value for consumers.”
Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust said: “I’m really proud of the role played by Martin Salter and the whole Angling Trust team who have worked so hard with the other organisations to expose the half-cocked and wholly unsubstantiated proposals from Hafren Power and to highlight the very real threat they pose to fish and fishing. “We are delighted that the committee has accepted our position that there is no evidence to support Hafren Power’s many spurious claims, including that they had found turbines which are in some way ‘fish-friendly’. Anglers from Swansea to Shrewsbury will be celebrating that the many of the 83 species of marine and migratory fish in the Severn estuary have been saved from having to pass back and forth through 1,000 turbines on every ebb and flow of the tide.”
Martin Salter, National Campaigns Co-ordinator said: “Through the Angling Trust our sport is now operating at a higher and more professional level than ever before. With the support of our colleagues on the All Party Angling Group we have played a significant role in facing down a multi million pound private sector consortium which was trying to press ahead with the installation of 1,000 fish mincing turbines in one of the most important fisheries in our country. Both Parliament and the Government have actively sought out our views and, for once, have come down on our side. I have no doubt that this was because of our willingness to defend important fish habitat in the European Courts and the strength of the case we made to the parliamentary select committee. These plans for a Severn Barrage should now sink without trace and we need to get on with finding ways to harness the power of the Severn without destroying the environment for birds and fish.”
George Hollingbery, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling said: “It's been great to see angling organisations and conservation groups working together and raising in parliament the importance of vital ecosystems like the Severn Estuary. Of course renewable energy is important but so are our genetically unique spawning runs of salmon, sea trout and other species which could easily be lost forever. I congratulate the Angling Trust and my colleagues on the Select Committee on a job well done.”
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