British Gas’s owner Centrica has backed plans to build a 12-mile barrier that will prevent tidal flooding in The Wash, despite the backlash of green campaigners.
The £3bn barrier would run from Skegness, Lincolnshire, to Hunstanton, north Norfolk. Developers believe that it could generate enough renewable energy to power up to 600,000. It will also improve flood protection in much of East Anglia.
The barrier could be fitted with tidal turbines that would harness the energy of rising and falling tides.
Centrica, the company that owns British Gas, and provides energy to 10,000,000 UK households, has confirmed it is interested in purchasing any green power generated.
Centre Port, who developed the project, has claimed that a port in the middle would allow for the handling of hundreds of thousands shipping containers each year, boosting local jobs and investment. Centre Port said that the project would include a dual-carriageway, and it could be a good opportunity for cruise ship tourists.
However, such a project would be met with strong opposition by some of the UK’s most prominent environmental groups.
The barrier, they say, would have “catastrophic impacts” if it were built and damage globally important wetlands. In recognition of the importance of this estuary for wildlife, it is being considered for Unesco’s World Heritage status.
Phil Pearson, conservation officer at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: “An estuary barrier along The Wash could be devastating for the UK’s largest wetland bird habitat and have negative effects on other important habitats for wildlife, such as the East Coast or the Fens.
Mike Jones of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust said: “Building such a large tidal barrage would flood and destroy saltmarsh, destroying wildlife habitat, and expose local communities to an increased flood risk. This undermines the scheme’s stated purpose.
James Sutcliffe said that the Centre Port chief executive stated that this scheme would be cheaper than other estuaries in the UK because The Wash has a shallower tidal range.
The Government cancelled plans in 2010 for a barrage to be built across the Severn Estuary due to the cost of the project.
According to Mr Sutcliffe, the tidal range is 15-20 feet in The Wash, with gentler currents. This means that any barrier can be constructed with sand dug from the seabed.
Mr Sutcliffe previously owned and ran ports in Boston, Lincolnshire; Middlesbrough; and Gdansk (Poland). He wants to see the project recognized by the Government, as “a national infrastructure project”, which would mean that planning decisions will be taken away from local authorities and placed in the hands of ministers.
He said: “This would be a boost to the UK’s economy, with the first container port powered by tidal power in the world. It can handle the largest container ships.”