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Monday, October 18, 2010

"My barrage would have been this big!" - Hain

Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Wales is not a man who goes in for half measures when he is on the attack. So we should not be surprised when he tells every media outlet who will listen to him that scrapping the Severn barrage plan would be "equally disastrous" for the economy and the environment.

And yet he does not appear to be tapping into a consensus on this matter. Indeed most environmental groups think that he is wrong in arguing that this is a beneficial development, Gordon James from Friends of the Earth for example tells the BBC:

"We have long argued that the Cardiff to Weston-super-Mare Severn barrage would have been too costly in both financial and environmental terms, and that better options exist to harness this important source of clean energy.

"The costs of construction would very likely have risen from the estimated £22bn while it would have caused irreversible damage to wildlife sites that are meant to be protected by law.

"This could have resulted in prolonged legal challenges that would have further delayed a project that would not have delivered the clean energy we so desperately need for over 20 years."

The problem is that we need the electricity now and yet the Barrage scheme would not have produced a single spark until 2030. Smaller schemes in the Severn Estuary can produce energy more quickly, would be less damaging to the ecology of the area and would be better value for money.

As for the economic benefits, it is true that jobs would have been created in the barrage's construction but the impact on ports behind the barrage could have been devastating.

On balance I believe that Peter Hain is wrong on this issue. His belief in a big bang approach cannot command a consensus. On the other hand if he is right in saying that the barrage can be built from private money alone then let us see the proposals. Somehow I don't think they will materialise.
It has been known for some time (see my posting in August) that the big barrage scheme would be postponed for the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see what language Chris Huhne uses: will he rule it out completely, on the grounds of its commercial and environmental impact, or merely for the lifetime of this government?
"My barrage would have been this big!" - Hain

... now it is zero inches/0 cms 'big'!
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