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Severn Barrage

Volume 465: debated on Thursday 25 October 2007

7. How the Government plan to ensure that the views of wildlife groups are taken into account when considering the possibility of a Severn barrage. (160576)

The Government intend to carry out the feasibility study announced on 25 September in an open and transparent way. The issue of how we can best engage with all the interested groups, including wildlife non-governmental organisations, will be considered in the development of the communications element of the study.

The Newport wetlands wildlife reserve, the compensatory habitat for Cardiff bay, is in my constituency. I support the drive to harness tidal energy in the Severn, but will my hon. Friend ensure that the feasibility study is truly independent and open and examines all the options and impacts? Will she ensure that wildlife groups such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Wildlife Trust are listened to and are part of a stakeholder group during the process?

The feasibility study is at an early stage and the project organisation and Government arrangements are being developed and are subject to ministerial approval. The work plans for the various issues are also at an early stage and we had our first cross-departmental working group meeting on 18 October. The detailed communications plan is being developed to ensure that appropriate stakeholder communication and engagement take place in an effective and appropriate way and at the right time. I am not in a position at the moment to guarantee the specific involvement of groups in any particular way, but I can assure my hon. Friend of the group’s openness, transparency and willingness to consult. I hope that she and organisations such as the RSPB and Friends of the Earth will acknowledge that the Government have a good track record in consulting NGOs.