Developers behind controversial plans for a tidal barrage off the Norfolk coast have been told to expect fierce opposition to their proposal when they face the public.

Conservation groups warn 'catastrophic' damage to one of the UK's most important wetlands would be caused if plans to build a tidal barrier in the Wash go ahead.

Developers behind the £2bn scheme are due to speak at a public meeting in Hunstanton on Friday, but have been warned to be braced for fierce opposition.

Centre Port says the project, which would stretch from Hunstanton to Skegness would generate tidal power, protect the Fens from flooding and allow a new deep sea port to be opened.

But critics, including Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, RSPB and Wild Ken Hill, the Norfolk home of BBC's Springwatch, are frustrated at what they say is a lack of transparency.

They say the Wash estuary is being considered for UNESCO World Heritage status, but that could be dealt a significant blow if the project is given the green light.

Eastern Daily Press: The route of the proposed barrageThe route of the proposed barrage (Image: Centre Port)

Phil Pearson, RSPB senior conservation officer, said: “A tidal barrier on the Wash would be disastrous for the UK’s most important estuary for wetland birds and would have knock-on effects on other nationally and internationally important habitats for wildlife such as the east coast and the Fens.

"The evidence from other barrage proposals around the world highlights the potential catastrophic impact that can occur to an estuary’s habitats and wildlife if these sorts of projects go ahead."

Eastern Daily Press: Wild Ken Hill founder Dominic BuscallWild Ken Hill founder Dominic Buscall (Image: Chris Bishop)

Wild Ken Hill founder, Dominic Buscall, said: "It is now time to put this whole proposal to bed."

READ MORE: Conservationists at war over the Battle of The Wash

Centre Port, which is trying to raise £5m for a feasibility study for the scheme, claims the development will protect the ecology of the Wash and Fenlands, its agriculture and preservation of the natural habitat in the face of "escalating climate change".

The public meeting will take place at the Princess Theatre in Hunstanton at 6pm on Friday.

It has been moved from the town hall because of the level of interest.