Heseltine claims Severn barrage could boost economy

Lord Heseltine
Image caption Lord Heseltine said the UK government "needs a clear and consistent long term energy policy"

Lord Heseltine claims a plan for a £30bn barrage across the Severn estuary potentially offers "extraordinary economic regeneration".

In a report on the economy commissioned by Downing Street, the former deputy prime minister says a barrage offers a possible long-term UK energy source.

Supporters say the barrage, from the Vale of Glamorgan to Somerset, would provide 5% of the UK's electricity.

The Welsh government said it had not yet considered the report.

Swansea-born Lord Heseltine, a former Conservative minister, has challenged the UK government to take bolder action to stimulate the economy.

His report, No Stone Unturned, makes 89 recommendations to help industry.

In a section on energy, he says: "It goes without saying that a secure and affordable supply of energy is essential to everything we do," adding that "the Severn Barrage offers the possibility of both a long term source of energy and extraordinary economic regeneration".

The report says: "It is widely accepted that over the next 10 to 15 years up to £200bn of investment may be needed to meet both levels of demand for energy and our carbon targets.

"For the country's energy needs to be met, the government needs a clear and consistent long term energy policy that indicates what our projected needs will be and how they will be met, by when and by whom."

The UK government has previously rejected barrage plans after a two-year feasibility study found the cost could be up to £34bn, double the initial estimate.

However, earlier this year, Prime Minister David Cameron instructed officials to look into the plans.

Last year, the Corlan Hafren consortium submitted a business plan to the Department of Energy and Climate Change outlining a new proposal.

'Damaging consequences'

Opponents Friends of the Earth Cymru (FoEC) say a barrage across the Severn would be wrong for the economy and environment.

Gareth Clubb, FoEC director, said: "If just a fraction of the investment needed to build a concrete barrage was spent on energy efficiency, thousands more jobs would be created.

"And there are better solutions for capturing the tidal power of the Severn that would have much less damaging consequences, and could give us green energy far sooner than the 20 years it will take a barrage to generate anything at all."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We are unable to comment until we have considered the final report.

"However, the First Minister recently met with Lord Heseltine and business leaders from across Wales to discuss how we can secure benefits from increased international trade and investment.

"We will continue to work with industry leaders and through UKTI to identify export opportunities, and deliver high quality inward investment for Wales."

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