Plans have been revealed for a tidal barrage stretching from Norfolk to Lincolnshire, which could generate tidal power, protect the Fens from flooding and allow a new deep sea container port to be created.
But conservation groups fear the proposals would have “catastrophic impacts” on nature and wildlife.
Centre Port, which is behind the scheme, wants to build a hydro-electric dam across The Wash from near Hunstanton on the Norfolk side of the estuary to near Skegness in Lincolnshire.
“without the scheme many people, communities, businesses, road, rail and water infrastructures are at risk from permanent flooding.“
The firm’s chief executive James Sutcliffe said:
“We can control storm surges so all the bird sanctuaries, salt marshes and so on don’t get washed away, it’s going to conserve The Wash and its bird life like it is today.”
Mr Sutcliffe said the tide would be allowed to enter and leave the estuary via the turbines, which would generate enough electricity to power 600,000 homes, along with the port, which could handle 1.5m containers a year.
He said the port would be closer to key markets in the East and West Midlands than Felixstowe for container lorries and could have a ferry link to Ostend to cut lorry journeys.
But the RSPB, Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT), Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust (LWT), the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and Wild Ken Hill Estate are urging developers to rethink the plan.
In a statement, the groups say:
“The Wash is the UK’s most important estuary for wild birds, home to England’s largest common seal colony, and an important fishery.
“A tidal barrage would fundamentally alter the nature of the intertidal habitats on which this wildlife depends.
“Construction of a barrier across the mouth of The Wash would displace the flow of tidal water in and out of the estuary, raising concerns this could lead to greater – and more frequent – flooding, and cause significant coastal erosion.” . . . .
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