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Severn Tidal Barrage - the pros and cons

Dear All

I am looking into the issues posed by the Severn Tidal Barrage

1) The proposed construction of a tidal barrage to generate electricity in the Severn Estuary between England and Wales could provide an economically attractive and environmentally acceptable way of supplying up to 7% of England and Wales’s electricity consumption with low-cost, low-carbon electricity by 2020.

2) Thus helping the UK government to meet its obligation under its current Climate Change Policy and specifically those contained within the Renewable Energy Strategy (2009) of achieving 15% of energy supply from renewables by 2015.

3) This development will however have a huge impact upon 360,000 overwintering birds; destroy protected areas of wetland and altering the estuarine ecosystem beyond repair.

4) Given the overwhelming legal protection afforded to this area one of the issues that needs to be explores is how such a proposal was even considered? Have we approached the moment when Article 6(4) of ‘overriding public interest’ extending to combating climate change. If such development project is allowed to go ahead in such an area, does the prevention of climate change represent the ‘trump card’?

5) The paradox: must the environment be irrevocably changed in order to prevent the environment being irrevocably changed. The compensation required to satisfy the Habitats Directive will be on a scale previously unseen in the UK.

6) Is climate change mitigation ‘in the public interest’? If so, does this represents an open door to developers wishing to capitalise upon opportunities presented by the government’s binding targets. Provided it can be shown that the project or development contributes towards these targets, will all other environmental considerations will be ‘trumped’. Will these projects that provide renewable energy with the potential to cause ‘significant adverse effects ‘eventually become derogation within the Habitats Directive.Would the rationale for derogation be the fact that they should be considered ‘in the public interest’? This then brings into question the relevance that ought to be given or the weight given to conservation of species and habitat in an era of economic transformation and climate change obligation.

Essentially I am interested in exploring the views on this issue Renewables vs. Conservation.



Tilak Ginige
Senior Lecturer in Environmental Law
School of Conservation Sciences