Plans have been revealed for a £2bn renewable energy and flood infrastructure project in northwest East Anglia, which – if given the go-ahead – could include a hydro-electric dam and the world’s first tidal powered deep sea container port.
The ambitious Centre Port scheme, backed by Centre Port Holdings, would span the Fens and the Wash estuary, and link the county to South Lincolnshire by a dual carriageway built into the flood defence infrastructure.
Much of the Fens is below sea level, relying on pumped drainage and sluices to maintain farming in the region. In some areas, the land is barely 1m to 2m above sea level.
Faced with the increasingly unpredictable threat of climate change, developer Port Evo claims the proposed barrage could double as flood protection against intensifying storm surges, extending through to Peterborough and Cambridge.
Supporters also say the project will help preserve wildlife which could otherwise be lost within two generations.
The proposed barrage would stretch nearly 18km between Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire and Hunstanton in Norfolk, in alignment with the Eastern Powerhouse strategy. It could also double up as a hydro-electric dam with underwater turbines generating tidal energy for up to 600,000 businesses and homes, incorporating sluice gates to prevent surge tides.
A road rail connection to northern European ports is also under consideration.
It has been estimated that The Wash could provide 730sq km of tidal area for renewable energy production, with long-term infrastructure lasting at least 200 years, according to Centre Port’s website.
Phase 1 of the proposal would see the development of a ‘state-of-the-art’ container terminal, capable of handling 23,000 TEU ships and at least 1.5m shipping containers a year. Supporters say the Wash’s geography make it the ideal place for a deepwater port, which could create thousands of jobs and provide a much-needed boost to international trade.
Power company Centrica has signed an expression of interest in electricity from the scheme.
While plans for a similar barrage were dropped nearly 15 years ago, experts at the Environment Agency have previously said that new infrastructure could be needed to protect low-lying land in the future.
Global upheaval has also given a fresh impetus on the UK’s need for largescale renewable energy projects.
However, the scheme has attracted fierce opposition from local wildlife conservation groups, including the National Trust, who released a statement saying news of a potential new terminal and tidal scheme in The Wash is ‘deeply concerning’.
“Climate change is the biggest threat we all face, and we acknowledge the need for green energy. However, this has to be done in the right place and in the right way, so that it doesn’t impact what we’re ultimately trying to save.”
The Centre Port scheme has been deemed a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, meaning its future will be decided by the government’s Planning Inspectorate.
In the meantime, Centre Port is seeking funding for a two-year feasibility study.