Plans for the £1.3bn Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon have been dealt a blow by the Court of Appeal, which has ruled that work on the project did not commence within five years of receiving planning approval and therefore the development consent order (DCO) is no longer valid. The project, put together by developer Tidal Lagoon (Swansea Bay), was to build the world’s first tidal lagoon power plant. This would span Swansea Bay to form a lagoon between the River Tawe and the River Neath. The structure would have had 16 turbines producing a up to 320MW per day. Tidal Lagoon submitted its plans to government 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 underwent financial strains over the following years. The developer entered into negotiations with the business secretary to secure funding for the project. In June 2018, The Welsh government said it would pay £200M towards it, but later that month the secretary of state said the project was poor value for money and there would be no funds forthcoming from either Parliament or the Welsh government.

The project continued to Discharge Some of the Pre-commencement.

requirements in 2019 and 2020. As time ticked down towards the expiration of the DCO in June 2020, Tidal Lagoon sought £1.2M from investors to complete the discharge of pre-commencement requirements so that its DCO would not expire. In the final week before expiration, Tidal Lagoon said it was only lacking a Whitehall sign-off on its decommissioning plan before it could start work, but this did not arrive in time. The developer wrote to the secretary of state asking for a year-long extension to its DCO. This was rejected. In a last-ditch attempt to save its DCO, Tidal Lagoon contracted Alun Griffiths to begin work on the project – even though the pre-commencement requirements had not been completed and full planning approval granted. This was considered a breach of planning law and did not constitute official commencement of works. Rather than allowing the DCO to simply lapse, the developer wrote to Swansea Council to contend that the ground investigation and survey works undertaken in 2016, and further works of investigation, demolition and site-clearance carried out thereafter, were material operations under section 155. Its case relied on the DCO’s use of “begin” rather than “commence”. The council did not accept this contention.

Tidal Lagoon Entered into Legal proceedings over.

the matter in March 2021. The case was finally brought before the Court of Appeal on 26 October this year, and the ruling handed down on 1 December. The 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. This seemingly lays the project to rest permanently. in the time since the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon DCO lapsed, multiple other tidal projects in Wales have been suggested. Less than a day after the DCO lapsed, plans were tabled for a £590M tidal lagoon from Mostyn to Point of Ayr in Flintshire, North Wales. In November 2020, the Swansea Bay City Region proposed Dragon Energy Island, which has international backing. This plan combines a lagoon seawall with tidal stream turbines, with space for 10,000 modular homes, underwater data centres and a solar energy farm – and is said to be 30% cheaper than the Tidal Lagoon plan. In May 2021, the Welsh government said it had received “strong” engagement on potential plans to build a tidal lagoon somewhere along the coast. February this year brought the news that Denbighshire County Council supported plans for a £7bn, 30km tidal lagoon on the Denbighshire coast in North Wales. And it now seems that a £1.7bn renewable energy project on Swansea’s waterfront will be going ahead with the team of engineering consultancy HDR and infrastructure project solutions firm Enable and technology giant Siemens. This will initially feature a hub for electric vehicle charging, but the larger scheme is set to include a raft of facilities including a tidal lagoon, a mega data centre, a high-tech battery manufacturing plant, green hydrogen production, floating solar panels and a battery storage facility.