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‘Mad’ Swansea tidal lagoon scheme heading for the rocks

January 18, 2016

By Paul Homewood 




Booker reports on the latest problems facing the Swansea tidal lagoon project:


The publication last week of a trenchant High Court ruling against Cornwall Council has given a further twist to the murky story of what I described last year as “the most insane ‘green’ project” the Government had ever given its backing to.

When I wrote more than once about the project to build a vast “tidal” power station on Swansea Bay, it seemed to have everything going for it. It had the personal backing of David Cameron, it was highlighted in the Tories’ election manifesto, and after the election it was hurriedly given planning permission by Amber Rudd, so that work could start as soon as last autumn.

But as I pointed out, the amount of power that the £1 billion scheme could generate was not only laughably small – the developers also insisted that it could only work if they were given a subsidy so exorbitant that it would be the most expensive electricity in the world.

Then, as months went by, it seemed that various snags arose. The Planning Inspectorate asked a stack of further questions on the scheme’s environmental impact. There was still haggling over the subsidy the developers were demanding. There was talk of a delay until 2017 – and in the autumn they were laying off a good part of their workforce.


The project developers wanted to reopen a disused quarry in Cornwall to provide rocks for the seawall  Photo: Aerial Cornwall


But another battle was raging over the developers’ plans to create a huge “super-quarry” on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, from which they hoped to ship 1.5 million tons a year of the stone needed to build the six-mile long breakwater round Swansea Bay.

A case brought on behalf of local protesters argued that the planning permission rushed through Cornwall Council last April had broken the law by failing to include an environmental assessment of the potential damage the quarry would do to a whole range of natural sites officially designated for special protection.

"Last week, even Mr Cameron admitted to MPs that he had now changed his view of the Swansea scheme, because of the cost of its electricity."

Although just before Christmas Mr Justice Dove in the High Court ruled that the permission had been given illegally, it is only now his judgment has been published we can see just how damning it was to the council’s conduct in every way. It also emerges that the planning officer responsible had been involved in two earlier decisions where Cornwall approved applications for two highly controversial wind farms.

Last week, even Mr Cameron admitted to MPs that he had now changed his view of the Swansea scheme, because of the cost of its electricity. But we are entitled to wonder just what it says about his judgment that he could ever have fallen for such a ludicrous project in the first place.

  1. January 18, 2016 12:45 pm

    Don’t you just love it when environmental regulations are used against the mad schemes of … environmentalists.

    • John Palmer permalink
      January 18, 2016 1:10 pm

      Quite so… but there are ‘environmentalists’ (our green blobbers – who, in reality are anti-just-about-everything) and proper ones.

  2. David Richardson permalink
    January 18, 2016 2:07 pm

    I think that trashing our environment is a price worth paying to save the planet. To save the patient we will have to kill him. /sarc off

    Seriously – there is a shift amongst some greens now to see the stupidity of what is being done in their name. Greens in Germany fighting against the destruction of ancient woodland, both to get at lignite and to provide land for Grid interconnects. Greens in North Carolina protesting about the destruction of woodland to burn in Drax power station. Greens protesting about the environmental damage caused if they build a 45 sq mile wind farm on Dogger Bank.

    Let’s hope it spreads – I am not holding my breath that anyone will listen.

  3. Green Sand permalink
    January 18, 2016 2:58 pm

    It would appear the ‘engineering’ is being questioned?

    -‘Intelligent guesses’ have been made about Swansea tidal lagoon turbine efficiency, engineer claims-

    “……..Dr Bob Allen, a former tidal engineer at Swansea University had similar concerns over the efficiency of the turbines working efficiently with the tide flowing in both directions.

    “When the flow is going in the wrong direction the efficiency will be very low, but they’ve assumed that they’re going to have the high efficiency for all the time – and that’s just not going to happen,” he said……….”

  4. roger permalink
    January 18, 2016 3:19 pm

    Before building any further offshore wind arrays it is to be hoped that a serious investigation will be undertaken into the effect of the Robin Rigg Wind Farm on the shifting sands and coastal erosion in the Inner Solway to the east of that array.
    Not only have individual units been destabilised by the erosion of their foundations, but major alterations to the channels and merses have, and continue to take place for several miles eastward into the narrows of the Firth.
    Although the channels have history of realignments, making the dividing line between Scotland and England debatable, the depths and movements of scours and channels are greater than have been seen before in living memory.
    I am sure I recently saw a survey vessel working there but no report was forthcoming.
    I am glad I don’t own property near the shore.

    • Mark Hodgson permalink
      January 18, 2016 7:36 pm


      As a resident of Cumbria not far from the Solway, I should be very interested if you are able to provide any further info or links regarding the damage apparently caused by Robin Rigg. It’s a blight on the landscape, ruining the view of the Scottish hills over the Solway from here, and while I could just about accept it as a necessary blight if it actually produces reliable and cheap electricity (no doubt it doesn’t) I will be extremely annoyed if it is causing environmental damage to boot.


      • roger permalink
        January 18, 2016 11:55 pm

        I have no links just personal observation leading to an uneasy feeling that the dynamics of the inner Solway on the Scottish side have been upset to such an extent that massive movements of millions of tons of sand are occurring on a regular basis hitherto unseen.
        The merse in the Powfoot area is much altered with some parts scoured away to reveal old foreshore workings whilst other areas have new deposits which enhance encroachment up the road.
        The haaf and stakenet fishermen of old would hardly recognise the areas they used to fish.
        If you are on the opposite English side perhaps you could check out what changes are occurring there.
        I brought this up because in the Swansea paper linked above a university scientist worried about the scour that turbines might make should the project go ahead.
        I think that the lines of turbine towers across the Solway at Robin Rigg are affecting the tidal currents in a similar, slower, less dynamic manner and that we have yet to see the final outcome of those perturbations.

      • Mark Hodgson permalink
        January 19, 2016 5:52 pm

        Thanks for responding, Roger – sorry for the delay in acknowledging.

        I’ll keep an eye on local news reports relating to Robin Rigg to see what, if anything, develops, though I imagine they won’t be keen to publicise any possible problems. There’s an interesting piece here:

        It contains the following paragraph:

        “Elsewhere in these Shore Stories people have talked to me about the continual changes, both short-term and on a geological time-scale, in the sea-bed and margins of the Firth. Whenever man-made constructions are inserted in the Firth, from willow-hurdles and groynes, piers and harbour walls, to wind-turbines and proposed tidal barrages, the wind and water-currents cause the sea-bed to change and compensate, in ways both hoped-for and unexpected.
        David Dobson, Director of Operations for the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, says of Robin Rigg, “For the fishing industry, let’s say it hasn’t proved any worse than expected. The Silloth fishermen feel that the bathymetry of the Solway has changed drastically. But it’s too early to tell whether this will have an impact on brown shrimp catches.” The fisheries’ protection vessel, Solway Protector, has new sea-bed mapping instruments which are proving useful for looking at the changes. “There’s no two ways about it – the Solway’s extremely dynamic – and if you put something in the middle, like a mass of turbines, you’re bound to get changes.”
        It’s still early days, but it will be interesting to see how the feet of those 60 towers affect the Firth.”

        Text is copyright of Ann Lingard. June 2011, and 2015. (But it also says “The text was subject to approval by E.On’s press department”).

      • roger permalink
        January 20, 2016 10:59 am

        Yes I had seen that link. I also found this link
        which details Robin Rigg stats and interestingly refers to a court case in 2014 where a contractor was sued for faulty grouting.
        The full text of your link although approved by EOn still affords a valid insight into offshore arrays whilst my more technical link herein is well worth the read.
        Both could be useful to others using this blog.
        It is good to know that you will be watching the English side of the Solway for further unwanted developments.
        Apologies to Paul H for using his blog space for our personal correspondence!

      • Mark Hodgson permalink
        January 21, 2016 7:28 pm

        Thanks Roger. I had spotted the court case, though that seems to be more about bickering over whose fault it is that 2 of the turbines don’t work than anything else – it’s an interesting read, nevertheless. If I see any further developments here on the English side of the Solway I will mention it on this site if I can do so without being too far off topic.

        And likewise, thanks and apologies to Paul for hijacking his site for personal correspondence!

  5. January 18, 2016 3:52 pm

    Just imagine the tiny ecological footprint of a 50 MW mini-nuke power station, and compare with that of this Swansea nightmare, such a thing may even be available earlier:

  6. tom0mason permalink
    January 18, 2016 5:14 pm

    If Wales and the EU pay the building of it with imported rocks and the foots the bill for attempting to run it why not let them?
    Construct this magnificent folly! Future generations will then see the stupidity of their forefathers, read all their ‘sustainability’ nonsense and hopefully learn from it …

    • A C Osborn permalink
      January 18, 2016 5:33 pm

      But they won’t “foot the bill for it”, we the tax payers will.
      I live in Swansea and if they want a white elephant they can have a white elephant, just leave out the Electrical generation part of it.
      I hope this is the death knell of the whole stupid project, it will make my year if it is.

      • January 18, 2016 5:46 pm

        Oh no, just heard the Welsh first minister complaining about the delay in this Swansea tidal thingy, to provide jobs and demand for steel for the Tata workers, who of course will insist on final salary pensions, they were prepared to strike to keep them recently.

      • A C Osborn permalink
        January 18, 2016 6:49 pm

        My son happens to work in Tata and yes they would like to keep their final salay pensions, which he has been paying in to for 27 years.
        Their Pensions start time have already gone back 2 years and will probably go back even more.
        At this rate he will be lucky to live long enough to get his.

  7. January 18, 2016 6:14 pm

    The worrying thing to me, as Christopher Booker has pointed out, is the terrible judgement of David Cameron, He has continually and frequently made the most perverse decisions – but isn’t that just what a jumped up PR man would do?

    • ralfellis permalink
      January 19, 2016 12:44 pm

      >>terrible judgement of David Cameron.

      He has no judgement. If you have no intelligence, and no relevant education, and no relevant work experience, how can you have judgement?

      This is why the fool came in saying he would be the greenest prime minister, changing the party logo to a stoopid tree. And he thought that was a good idea, rooted in the real world, instead of the fantasy of a naive child.

      This is why the fool supported the Arab Spring, and any armed faction that sought to overthrow a government. Not realising that these armed factions were not the same as a parish council in the Cotswolds. And he thought that was a good idea, rooted in the real world, instead of the fantasy of a naive child.

      This is why the fool continues to support religious segregation in education, and the destruction of our best (gramar) schools. Not understanding that the root of Europe’s social problems are founded in divisive segregated education (look at Northern Ireland, or the Madrassas of Birmingham and the Mill Towns). And he thought that was a good idea, rooted in the real world, instead of the fantasy of a naive child.

      The guy is a dreamer, ruled by a fantasist dreamer wife, who should not have governance over a kindergarten let alone a nation.


  8. January 18, 2016 10:01 pm

    If you read my comments on the Christopher Booker article you will note the “corrupt” green planning officer still employed by Cornwall County Council. He seems to have two responsibilities within the incompetent Council – promoting renewable energy and approving planning applications for renewable energy schemes.

  9. ralfellis permalink
    January 19, 2016 12:31 pm

    And still I see no discussion about the main problem with tital power – the fact that the power stops four times a day. And then when we have neap tides, two times a month, the whole thing is useless anyway.

    So it matters not how much electricity this barrage generates, you still need to build a fossil plant along side it, for when it is not working. And that plant needs to run all day, because it has to take up the slack four times a day. So you not only spend ten times as much building the thing, you have to pay again for the backup station, and the fuel it burns. As ever, these ‘free’ power sources produce some of the most expensive electricity on the planet.


  10. January 19, 2016 1:43 pm

    If tidal lagoons were such a good idea, wouldn’t other countries be building them?

    ‘World’s first’ :

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