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Conservationists unite to condemn Wash barrage proposal

Last modified: 29 April 2008

Oystercatcher reflected in water

Conservation groups in Norfolk and Lincolnshire have come together to condemn the latest proposal for a barrage across The Wash.

Environmentalists believe the scheme, which will be publicly launched today (Monday, April 28), could see the UK’s most important estuary for wildlife damaged beyond repair. Details of the proposal have been scant prior to today’s launch, but either a fixed barrage or a surge barrier would alter the normal ebb and flow of the tide in The Wash, destroying the wildlife that survives in eastern England’s last great wilderness.

Cambridgeshire-based businessman Peter Dawe has set up the Wash Tidal Barrier Corporation to raise private capital to build a barrier stretching from Hunstanton on the Norfolk coast to Skegness in Lincolnshire. He claims that, among other things, the barrage would be a sea defence and allow some areas of the estuary to be ‘reclaimed’.

A lack of understanding

The proposal appears to fall foul of all of the legislation and designations that protect sites such as The Wash. Nationally, the estuary is recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and under European law it is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) and as a Special Area for Conservation (SAC). It is also listed under an international convention protecting important wetlands (the Ramsar convention).

'Investment in such a scheme would be foolish as it cannot possibly be given permission to proceed.'

'This scheme should be dismissed as a non-starter,' said Richard Powell, Regional Director for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). 'We’re talking about a site that supports a phenomenal amount of wildlife. It’s the most important estuary for birds in the UK, and to consider damaging it in this way beggars belief. It just goes to show the lack of understanding about our wild places, and the scale of some people’s ambitions to trash our environment.'

'Exactly which businesses are going to line up behind a proposal that would see us destroy the UK’s greatest wildlife treasure? This just isn’t good business sense for the twenty-first century.'

'Birds are one part of the equation, but there’s a multi-million pound wildlife watching and tourism industry that exists around The Wash. Damaging the wildlife would surely damage this, too,' Richard continued.

Extra protection

Caroline Steel, Assistant Director (Conservation) for the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust said: 'The Wash is so important for its wildlife that it has almost every national and international designation available. We expect it to receive even greater protection in the forthcoming Marine Act. Investment in such a scheme would be foolish as it cannot possibly be given permission to proceed.'

Director of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Brendan Joyce said: 'A tidal barrier across the Wash would effectively destroy one of the most important estuaries for wildlife in England. Such a proposal cannot be taken seriously.'

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