The Environment Agency is being asked to look again at plans for the Bridgwater tidal barrier scheme over fears it could be missing a tourist opportunity.
The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) has made a formal request to reserve land within the bypass channel to enable future construction of a lock and approach channels.
Ivor Caplan, Chairman, said: "As an organisation, IWA campaigns for all users of the waterways to receive the maximum benefit from our canals, rivers and linked tidal estuaries, both now and in the future.
"Operation of the proposed Bridgwater Tidal Barrier is expected to increase significantly over its lifetime and will have an increasing effect on the established right of navigation on the River Parrett.
"IWA believes that the decision to refuse the request to reserve land to enable the future construction of a lock within the Bypass Channel as part of the Tidal Barrier scheme is a short-sighted decision by the Project Board and should be reversed."
Mick Lerry, Bridgwater Town Councillor, added: "Bridgwater Town Council, along with IWA, believed that there were no further concerns relating to this request and that the reservation of the land was fully achievable.
"It is very disappointing to hear that the Project Board has decided not to reserve the land needed for the future construction of a lock and approach channels as part of the scheme.
"This decision will have a negative impact on our local area and goes against all our plans for future-proofing the region."
A spokesperson for The Environment Agency said: "Sedgemoor District Council and the Environment Agency continue to work with a wide range of stakeholders and interest groups to deliver the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier Scheme in 2024: a proposal for a tidal barrier flood defence on the river Parrett.
"The scheme will reduce tidal flood risk to 11,300 homes and 1,500 businesses, protecting over £2.5 billion of assets. It is anticipated that an application for a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) and deemed planning permission will be submitted to the Secretary of State in December 2019.
"We are aware of the request for the scheme to incorporate a navigation lock at the site of the tidal barrier. However, we are not aware of any compelling evidence that a navigation lock is needed or would be used.
"The barrier will be open to navigation except for a period of up to six hours during extreme tidal events.
"These severe tidal events would be caused by a very high spring tide combining with a very deep low pressure system to generate exceptionally strong severe gale or storm force winds and powerful currents which would mean navigation in any craft would be particularly hazardous.
"Initially, the number of barrier closures for extreme events is estimated to be on average five per year. As sea levels rise the number of closures for extreme events will increase and in 100 years’ time could be on average 35 per year. There will also be shorter closures once or twice a month for testing, training and maintenance purposes."
The Environment Agency also added that:
- There is no justification for the use of public money to acquire land on a compulsory basis for a purpose which has no connection with flood defence and for which there is no certainty of delivery.
- The formation of a navigation lock is likely to cost several million pounds (at 2019 prices) The IWA and BTC have not demonstrated how funding will be secured to deliver the proposed works or the ongoing maintenance and operation. There is therefore no certainty of delivery.
- The land required to accommodate the lock and realigned defence would exceed the proposed permanent land footprint for the barrier. This will increase the risk of challenge to the TWAO and cost.
- The barrier is classified as critical flood risk management infrastructure. This makes it highly unlikely that the IWA proposals to construct a navigation lock immediately downstream of the barrier, with an access tunnel beneath the barrier platform would be possible due to the potential risk to the integrity and operation of the barrier.
Click play to hear Ray Alexander, Chairman of the Inland Waterways Association West Country branch, speaking to reporter Andrew Kay about the potential benefits they see from allowing a channel