Government Asks Severn Barrage Group for Details; CLARITY SOUGHT OVER COSTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

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Byline: CHRIS KELSEY

THE consortium behind the latest bid to build a Severn Barrage has been asked to provide additional details about costs and finance, a Government minister said yesterday. Charles Hendry, Minister of State at the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), said the proposal had been discussed in a conversation between Energy Secretary Chris Huhne and Lord Deben, the former Conservative environment minister John Gummer.

Lord Deben is chairman of Corlan Hafren, the consortium behind the new scheme.

Speaking on a visit to Tredegar yesterday, Mr Hendry said: "They've been asked to do some additional work so we can be clear about the costs, and be very clear about how the funding would happen.

"But we've said to them that we're keen for them to do some additional work to explore how feasibly it can be done.

"Our initial assumptions have been that certainly the schemes we've been looking at were too expensive to be carried forward in the current timescale.

"But they do appear to be addressing some of those costs and a lot of work has evidently gone into the study."

Mr Hendry added: "We have to be clear about the environmental issues, I know a lot of concern has been expressed about these by [groups such as] the WWF, and we have to be clear about the wider economic impact.

"A whole range of issues need to be taken into account but we are keen to see what else is being done."

The Government confirmed this week that the barrage would be eligible for subsidies through the renewables obligation, but Mr Hendry said: "We have to keep an eye on the interests of consumers because we can't be endlessly putting money into less efficient technologies regardless of costs. "A lot of it will come down to what the output will be in terms of the costs [of construction]," he said.

Asked if he thought large projects such as the barrage were the best way to meet the Government's demanding renewable energy targets, Mr Hendry said: "It will be challenging to be operating by 2020 but the developers say they think it could be. …