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Appeal court ruling sinks £1.3bn Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project

08 Dec 2022 3 minute read
Swansea bay tidal lagoon

The company which wanted to build the UK’s first ever tidal energy lagoon in Swansea Bay has lost its appeal against a legal ruling that it failed to commence work on the project within five years of winning planning approval.

The decision means the development consent order (DCO) for the project is no longer valid.

Tidal Lagoon (Swansea Bay) Plc launched its appeal earlier this year after losing a case last November when it had sought a High Court declaration to say that it had fulfilled a DCO for the £1.3 billion project by starting work within five years, as it was required to do.

This was disputed by the UK and Welsh Governments and also Swansea Council, which said it hadn’t.

The High Court judge hearing the original case had concluded that Tidal Lagoon Plc had not begun the development, and that this in turn removed the rationale for another declaration it was seeking.

Part of the hearing was about the difference, or otherwise, between the words “begin” and “commence”.

Not sufficient

The appeal court judge dismissed the developer’s appeal, deciding that there was no difference between the words “commence” and “begin”, and that the works carried out had not been sufficient to consider the project as having started within the five-year timeframe, seemingly ending hopes that the project could be resurrected.

Tidal Lagoon submitted its plans for the project, which would form a lagoon between the River Tawe and the River Neath in February 2014 and the project received its DCO in June 2015.

Ground investigation and survey works were undertaken by the developer in November 2016, but these were not considered as “material operations” so did not count as the project having commenced.

The project ran into financial problems the following year and despite the Welsh government’s willingness to pay £200M towards the scheme, the UK Government said the project was poor value for money and there would be no funds forthcoming.

Net zero

The UK Government’s subsequent commitment to a “net zero” economy renewed Tidal Lagoon Plc’s hopes and it carried out a number of pre-commencement requirements.

But with the clock ticking, one of its directors wrote to the UK Government in May 2020 to request that the development consent order should be extended because it was shortly to expire. This request was refused.

Tidal Lagoon Plc pressed on with some demolition and site-clearing works at Swansea docks which, it claimed in a second letter, meant the development had begun within the five-year deadline, however the council and two Governments said it hadn’t.

The ruling by Judge Harman QC last year said Tidal Lagoon Plc’s interpretation was “unsatisfactory” and not one which the 2015 consent order had intended.


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Cynan again
Cynan again
2 months ago

Big civil projects never seem to get off the ground in Cymru. I think even if we ever planned some desperately needed N-S transport links, Y Senedd would nix it because some bird lovers complained

Last edited 2 months ago by Cynan again
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 months ago
Reply to  Cynan again

They already have…the Llanbedr Bypass, but I don’t think they were bird lovers more private interest lovers…

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
2 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Yes, mosses and birds are protected. But don’t speak of protecting Y Fro Gymraeg!

Ap Kenneth
2 months ago
Reply to  Cynan again

Believe this particular project did not get off the seabed because the company could not agree a strike price with the UK Government. Some reports said the company wanted a guarenteed price of £92.50 per MWH for 90 years after originally seeking a higher figure for a shorter period. All looks a bit stupid now considering prices at times over £400 per MWH at times this December.

For context Hinckley Point has a strike price of £92.50 per MWH for 35 years.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
2 months ago

A bit of a bad day for the planet with the Cumbrian coal mine approval and the Swansea Bay failure. Clearly shows that if we are to do anything about the issue of climate breakdown then the Tory Government in Westminster must be swept away. It was also bad news to hear Mark Drakeford dismissing the idea of North -South rail links in Cymru. Somebody need to point out to him that there are two routes, one west and one east that mainly use abandoned railway grades that could easily be re-built if a) there was the willingness in the… Read more »

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

I hope it eventually sinks into the heads of Cymro, that Labour must be smashed.
It did take me a few years, so there is always hope

George Thomas
George Thomas
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

i) Unlike the centre-right in Europe, Tories take after right in USA where spending any public money is seen as wrong and there is ultimate trust in private sector to save us. Their nil want to spend public money on much needed infrastructure is stronger again when it comes to Celtic nations or north or England. ii) Mark Drakeford thinks Wales/Cymru is the only nation with mountains and therefore building effective transport links is impossible. UK Labour are even worse. iii) Plaid is forgetting that the dragon has two tongues and focusing on this one issue above all else. iv)… Read more »

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
2 months ago

Wonderful news. It would have utterly destroyed our beautiful bay FOREVER.
All for the benefit of some far off fatcats!

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