Company goes to court to keep tidal lagoon project alive
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
A company which spent millions of pounds on plans to build a Swansea Bay tidal lagoon has gone to the courts to keep its project alive.
Tidal Power plc drew up proposals over a period of years for a £1.3 billion energy scheme between the Tawe and Neath rivers, extending into the bay.
In June 2015 it was awarded a development consent order for the project, which it said would provide electricity for the equivalent of 155,000 homes for over a century, but the company had to start work on site within five years.
The project appeared sunk in 2018 when the UK Government declined to offer financial support which guaranteed the lagoon’s price of electricity – a move considered essential for the scheme’s viability.
However, the day before the five-year deadline in June 2020 elapsed, Tidal Power plc commissioned contractors to knock down a wall Swansea docks in a bid to effectively gain planning permission in perpetuity. It said at the time that it proposed handing over the project to an engineering alliance including Costain and GE, among others.
The UK Government and Swansea Council said the development consent order had expired, and now Tidal Power plc is seeking clarification from the courts.
The company said: “We have asked the court for a formal declaration that the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon development consent order has lawfully begun and did not expire in June 2020.
“The declaration would provide the ability to retain the option of tidal power at scale through an already approved development consent order, which potentially could assist the Government in achieving ‘net zero’ by 2050 and provide clean and sustainable energy from a UK source.”
In the meantime, other organisations have worked up new tidal lagoon proposals for Swansea Bay, which include thousands of floating houses, a solar farm and underwater data server storage capacity.
If such a project was taken forward it would need planning permission – this time from the Welsh not UK Government – plus a marine licence from Natural Resources Wales, among other things.