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UK government accused of delays and ‘counting out’ Swansea Bay tidal lagoon

BACKERS of a £1.3 billion tidal lagoon for Swansea Bay fear the scheme is being counted out with just days to go before planning permission expires, despite trying to rise from the canvas.

Tidal Power plc was floored in 2018 when the UK Government declined to offer the energy project a package of financial support.

But the company hasn’t exited the ring yet because its five-year development consent order – awarded in June 2015 – is still alive.

However, work has to start by June 30.

Some Conservative MPs are now urging Business Secretary Alok Sharma to intervene and have reminded Boris Johnson of his support for the Swansea lagoon when he visited Wales during the Tory Party leadership race last summer.

Tidal Power said work on an access road at Swansea docks could start in a matter of days if the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) signed off a decommissioning plan for the project.

The company said it had submitted a third version of a decommissioning plan early in May but hasn’t heard anything back.

Tidal Power said it proposed handing over the project to an engineering alliance including Costain and GE, among others, if it could beat the looming deadline.

It is also trying to get planning conditions signed off by Swansea and Neath Port Talbot Councils.

BEIS said the project did not provide value for money, but that it was reviewing the company’s decommissioning plan.

Tidal Lagoon chief executive Mark Shorrock, speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on June 22, said: “We are asking the Prime Minister, who expressed support for the lagoon when he was running for the Tory leadership, to recognise that this exactly the kind of project the country needs.

“He’s said Britain’s recovery is all about jobs, apprenticeships and long term investment and we have this wonderful project that’s on the cusp of being able to break ground at the end of the week with our global alliance partners.”

The Unite union has also come out fighting for the low-carbon Swansea project, which its backers say would create more than 2,000 construction jobs and generate the equivalent electricity used by 155,000 households for 120 years.

Tidal Power wants to kick-start a tidal lagoon industry in the UK, with larger ones earmarked including off Cardiff and Newport, among others.

Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon, tweeted yesterday in reference to Mr Johnson’s comments last summer: “Was this just yet another empty promise, or will he close the gap between rhetoric & reality, and back this cutting edge green technology project?”

Tidal Power, which said construction and borrowing costs had come down, would still need a marine licence from Natural Resources Wales to do any work in the sea.

A spokesman for the UK Government said: “Any proposed project like the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon must provide value for money for the consumer, which we have been clear about since this project was first proposed.

“Following extensive analysis, the project did not meet these criteria.”

The spokesman confirmed officials were reviewing the decommissioning plan submitted in May, and added that there were no statutory timescales in which a decision had to be made.

Peter Hughes, Unite Wales regional secretary, said: “Welsh manufacturing has taken a hammering during recent years.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened this trend and industrial employment in Wales has taken giant strides backwards in recent months.

“Supporting the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project would be a perfect opportunity for the UK Government to show that Wales will not, yet again, be at the back of the queue when it comes to landmark infrastructure projects.”

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