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Public meetings will gauge support for Severn Barrage

A proposed tidal barrage across the Severn Estuary will be debated next year at a series of public meetings in South Wales, designed to gauge public support for the idea.

Ministers wishing to harness the energy-generating power of the second highest tidal range in the world are considering a shortlist of five projects.

A barrage could meet as much as 5% of the UK’s energy needs, but conservationists fear wetland habitats and local biodiversity will be compromised.

New Energy Minister David Kidney said “a hand-picked audience, including members of the public” would be invited to the meetings.

“A hand-picked audience is intended to determine the priority issues for people and how best to communicate information in the consultation.”

David Kidney, Energy Minister

“This work is intended to provide a representative view on Severn tidal power at this point, the priority issues for people and how best to communicate information in the consultation,” he said.

The meetings are set to be held on both sides of the Severn Estuary.

Associated British Ports (ABP), which owns a number of docks in Wales including Cardiff and Newport, is conducting research into the potential impact of a barrage.

A particular point of concern for ABP is how a likely reduction in the high tide of about a metre would affect cargo levels. Both Cardiff and Newport could potentially be upstream of a large barrage.

Government consultation

The government will publish a view on the five proposed schemes next month, and a second consultation will begin after the public meetings.

Estimated costs for the project range from £22.2bn for a 10-mile Cardiff-Weston barrage to £2.3bn for a smaller version near Chepstow.

The Severn Barrage debate comes after the Government published its manifesto last week for the climate change talks taking place in Copenhagen this December.

“This work will provide a representative view on Severn tidal power.”

David Kidney, Energy Minister

The manifesto discussed the potential of tidal energy, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged Britain would do its “fair share” to combat climate change.

However, no specific reference was made to the Severn Barrage feasibility investigations.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband started the consultation about the Severn tidal power scheme in January 2009.

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