Development consent granted for the world’s first man-made tidal energy lagoon

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has granted development consent for Wales’ most ambitious NSIP (nationally significant infrastructure project) since the Planning Act 2008 came into force. The world’s first man-made, energy-generating tidal lagoon at Swansea Bay is now a step closer after the Secretary of State accepted the recommendation of the five inspectors who examined the proposals that consent should be granted. The promoters claim that the £1bn project, which has an installed capacity of 320MW, will be a reliable source of renewable energy for some 150,000 homes for 120 years. One of the main issues during the examination hearings was how to assess the likely significant environmental effects of the project when, as the promoters of the scheme accepted, the impacts of the project are “inherently evolving and involving uncertainty”. The Secretary of State accepted her inspectors’ recommendation that so-called ‘adaptive environmental management’ (“AEM”) processes were a “reasonable and pragmatic approach” to mitigating such effects for “aspects of the marine environment where uncertainty cannot be ruled out”, “particularly in relation to intertidal and coastal areas”. However, the Secretary of State also supported the view expressed by Natural Resources Wales (“NRW”) that “in general, an adaptive approach should not replace clear, upfront and enforceable mitigation plans” (para. 17). The promoters’ application for a marine licence under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 is still being considered by NRW. The Secretary of State acknowledged that the promoter “will not be able to commence construction of the offshore elements of the generating station until NRW are satisfied that stringent environmental conditions are met and that appropriate monitoring of environmental impacts will be required during the operation of the generating station” (para. 96). For the BBC’s coverage of the project, please click here. Gwion Lewis acted for Natural Resources Wales throughout the public examination and continues to advise NRW on all aspects of the scheme.

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