The Severn Barrage could have a massive impact on Bristol’s potential role at the hub of a global sea freight network linking the UK with expanding markets in China and India.
Tim Davies, Industrial and Logistics Director at Colliers International, said the uncertainty generated by high profile debate over the Severn Barrage scheme must not be allowed to push longstanding proposals for a Deep Sea Container Terminal at Avonmouth onto the back burner.
He has lobbied extensively in support of the £600m terminal scheme – presently awaiting an upswing in the economy before final go-ahead.
“The Deep Sea terminal could be pivotal in attracting significant amounts of industry into Bristol. The city should be targeting the emerging markets in China and India and the only realistic option is to carry freight by sea. Bristol’s potential role as a global trade hub will be severely compromised if a Severn Barrage scheme ever gets off the drawing board.”
Plans for the terminal have been approved by the Secretary of State but work has not progressed past the initial testing stage as the Port of Bristol waits for global economic conditions to improve.
Tim Davies said: “The Severn Barrage certainly divides opinion with environmentalists strongly against the scheme and supporters claiming it could provide 5 per cent of the UK’s energy needs as well as providing thousands of jobs.
“In addition, the barrage seems to have been taken up by people on both sides of the Bristol Channel as a purely local issue when it would clearly have a massive impact on both Wales and the West Country.”
He went on: “While recognising many of the Severn Barrage’s advantages in terms of new infrastructure, job creation and our future energy requirements, any barrage would inevitably restrict sea freight traffic to and from the Bristol Channel ports, especially Avonmouth.
The latest Colliers International report on Global Linkages forecasts that the continued growth in container shipping passing through Europe's ports will outstrip overall economic growth for the foreseeable future.
“In reality the only realistic solution is to ensure our ports are geared up to cope with the lion’s share of freight arriving in the UK. Once the new terminal is built Avonmouth has the potential to one of the largest and busiest in Europe and will enable Bristol to welcome some of the world’s biggest container ships.
“Business people in the city are determined to establish closer trade links with India and Bristol’s twin city of Guanzhou in China, and the Deep Sea Terminal would give us the facility we need to handle the import and export of large amounts of freight.”
He concluded: “We are determined to ensure all stakeholders are made aware of the long term significance of the Deep Sea Container Terminal and its pivotal role at the centre of the freight distribution network, not just in the South West but nationally. It is important that the uncertainty over the Severn Barrage scheme is not allowed to derail this hugely important project.”