The Westcountry fisheries watchdog has indicated strong opposition to a £25 billion energy-generating barrage across the Severn Estuary.
The Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority said the plan could jeopardise commercial fishing and recreational angling “to the detriment of the local economy and tourism industry”.
Its comments, in written evidence to a parliamentary inquiry into the barrage, emerged as developers, from Cardiff in south Wales to Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, vowed the scheme can produce cost-effective, reliable energy while reducing the threat of flooding.
Executives from Hafren Power believe their proposals could generate 5 per cent of the UK’s electricity for more than a century – equivalent to 2,500 offshore wind turbines or four nuclear reactors.
The Hafren plan, put to the Prime Ministerand Energy Secretary Ed Davey, proposes a barrage 11 miles wide. Hafren executives are due to make their case for the first time in public in the new year, as the cross-party Energy Select Committee conducts its inquiry.
The group faces opposition from civic and business leaders in Bristol, whose port would be disrupted by a barrage, and from environmental groups.
The Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority warned of the ecological impact of hundreds of turbines generating electricity.
Its evidence said: “The Severn Estuary supports more than one hundred species of fish. The estuary is designated as important for its small fish assemblages.
It is a nursery ground for a wide range of commercially important species including bass, pollock, sole, flounder and mullet. The construction of a barrage would irreversibly alter the tidal regime, sediment loading and transport, geomorphology and salinity of the feeding grounds.
“As the nursery for so many species this could jeopardise the viability of both commercial fishing and recreational angling in the area to the detriment of the local economy and tourism industry.
“The turbines that form part of the barrage are known to kill and injure fish that pass through them.”
Financial backer Richard Bazley, a 74-year-old who describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur”, is spearheading the latest in a long line of Severn barrage schemes since the idea was first mooted in 1849.
“We have had our heads below the parapet,” he told the Financial Times. “You can’t grow this sort of thing without a degree of secrecy.
Hafren says its design, which allows water to pass through the barrage, will have slow turbines intended to avoid damage to fish. It also says flood risk would be reduced further up the estuary by mitigating the impact of storm surges.