Plans to bridge the renewable gap over Morecambe Bay unveiled

Plans for a 'green bridge' incorporating a range of renewable energy technologies and stretching 12 miles across Morecambe Bay were discussed at a public consultation this week.

A private consortium, the Bridge Across the Bay Company, is proposing to build the bridge from Heysham to Barrow, with tidal, wave, wind and photovoltaic systems built in to connect to the grid. These would produce both renewable power and a revenue stream to help fund the capital cost. In addition, the company says, the bridge would cut journey times to Barrow and the Cumbria West Coast by one hour so cutting transport emissions and opening up the area for regeneration investment.

David Brockbank, Chairman of the Bridge Across the Bay consortium, said: "I am delighted to be launching our consultation process. It is a project led by local people who want to make a difference in their local area and we want to do that in partnership with all local people. We are not going to do something to them but with them, we want to know what people want and what they think."

Morecambe Bay is a European Marine Site with SAC, SPA and RAMSAR designations, making the environmental challenges of such a project quite considerable.

Des O'Halloran, English Nature's Area Manager for Cumbria, told edie that the bay area had a very powerful tide and dynamic environment, which moved a lot of sediment back and forth. "We've pointed out that this is a very big project and that any large turbines would take a lot of energy out of the system which would reduce the dynamic and could greatly affect the well being of the environment," he said.

Mr Brockbank told edie that he was well aware of the environmental sensitivity of the area and that the company would put the environment at the "very heart of all proposals". He said that the powerful tide was one of the main attractions for involving tidal turbines, but that it would not involve any entrapment of the water and would have minimal impact.

However, he was keen to point out that the consortium would not be putting in a planning application until they had had full public consultation and addressed any fears or doubts about the projects. Recent research indicates that people often feel excluded from the planning process of renewable energy projects (see related story).

Hazel Broatch, Chief Executive of the Bridge Across the Bay Company, said: "We believe there will be a wide range of issues that people will want us to consider, but we want to hear what people have to say and we will take their ideas seriously."

The project has the approval of the Cumbria Tourist Board. Chief Executive Chris Collier said: "The development of a bridge across the bay would be very good news for the tourism industry. As well as creating new jobs, it would provide a quick route for visitors into Cumbria and the Lake District and would especially benefit the Furness Peninsula and the Western Lake District."

Morecambe Bay is the second largest embayment in the UK and research by the consortium indicates it could produce 515 megawatts of power, although realistic power conversion depends on the technologies deployed.

The idea of building a bridge across Morecambe Bay is not a new one - it was first suggested by George Stevenson in 1834.

By David Hopkins



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