Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon 2: Sharks Circling?

After my previous post, Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, I have been giving more thought to the subject, and doing a little digging; which has led to a disturbing possibility presenting itself. By which I mean that someone, perhaps even someone local to Swansea Bay, is trying to sabotage this project for their own selfish reasons.

Treading carefully, I have decided to present this post as a combination of incontestable facts, presented as FACT: and limited to the paragraph in bold type following, interspersed with paragraphs containing deductions, assumptions or informed guesswork, before concluding with a reasonable hypothesis extrapolated from what has gone before.


FACT: The past week or so has seen a number of stories in the media unfavourable to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project. The first appeared in The Telegraph on February 15th, written by Energy Editor, Emily Gosden, and repeated in the Western Mail and WalesOnline on February 17th, about Cornish villagers up in arms over plans to quarry granite for shipping to Swansea Bay. Ms Gosden was at it again on February 21st, attacking on another front with this report arguing that the electricity generated by the tidal lagoon would be hideously expensive. This piece used as its source a submission produced by Citizens Advice.

So we see negative attention suddenly being paid to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. The really damaging attack of course came from Citizens Advice.

FACT: Those familiar with recent goings-on in Wales will recall that there was a plan to throw a massive barrage across the Severn Sea from Penarth to Weston-super-Mare. The company behind this project is, or was (it may be in liquidation), Hafren Power. A number of its leading figures left, the former chief executive to form Severn Tidal Energy.

Hain Spanglefish

FACT: The leading political backer of the Severn Barrage project was, and remains, Peter Hain, Labour MP for Neath. In fact, Hain resigned from the shadow cabinet in May 2012 to concentrate on promoting the project. In June 2013 the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee killed off the barrage proposal with a very critical report. Mr Hain attributed the rejection of his project to the influence of Bristol Port, one of whose owners, David Ord, was a substantial donor to the Conservative Party.

The Spanglefish website devoted to Peter Hain (from which the panel above is extracted) suggests that Hain hopes to resurrect the barrage project when there is a Labour government in Westminster. There is of course a general election in May. The website also suggests that ‘Welsh’ Labour is backing the barrage project.

FACT: In a WalesOnline article from September 2013, linked to above, and again here, “Mr Hain said that while he was convinced the project has no future at present, he hoped it could be resurrected under a future Labour Government.” While this article, from just last month, reported, “He (Hain) remains hopeful that the stalled Severn Barrage project, potentially creating tens of thousands of jobs, could be resurrected”.

Haywod Linkedin
LINKEDIN PROFILE (Click to enlarge)

FACT: The CEO of Citizens Advice is Gillian Guy, who is also chair of the Audit Committee of the National Audit Office.

FACT: Dr Elizabeth Haywood, aka Mrs Peter Hain, and another backer of the barrage project, was on the Remuneration Committee of the Wales Audit Office from July 2011 to March 2014. Since January of this year she has had a personal interest in electricity matters by becoming a non-executive director of Scottish Power Energy Networks Holdings Ltd.

Severn barrage

Given that the Wales Audit Office is probably no more independent of the National Audit Office in London than the ‘Welsh’ Government is of Westminster it is entirely reasonable to assume that Dr Haywood of Hafren Power and Gillian Guy of Citizens Advice are known to each other. And would be known to each other even if I’m being unduly cynical about the relationship between the two bodies. (For cynicism is not in my nature!)

FACT: Peter Hain and Elizabeth Haywood are both committed to the Severn barrage project. Additionally, Peter Hain has publicly voiced his opposition to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.

If the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon goes ahead, and is successful, others will be built. This will almost certainly be the final nail in the coffin of any Severn barrage, or any other major tidal barrage anywhere under the jurisdiction of the Westminster government. It seems to be a case of either / or but not both.


The Severn Barrage project never went away, it has been lying dormant (much like the company behind it, Hafren Power). A cynic – something I’ve already made clear (if only parenthetically), I am not – might interpret the above information thus:

There are two very good reasons for supporters of the Severn Barrage to attack the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project at this time. First, they are hoping for a Labour victory on May 7th, so in anticipation of that, now is a good time to ‘resurrect’ their project, as has always been the intention. Further, the rival tidal lagoon project is currently at the critical stage of waiting for the Planning Inspectorate to recommend acceptance or refusal to the UK government, after which there is a further three-month period during which the UK government must say yea or nay. So why not kill two birds with one stone by trying to influence the decisions of the Planning Inspectorate and the outgoing UK government, while also reminding a Labour government-in-waiting of the economic bounty that could be lavished by a Severn barrage? And doesn’t it tie in well with all the recent talk of a Cardiff – Bristol city region (with poor old Newport as the spread in the sandwich).

Hain barrage

The barrage is said to have, or possibly had, powerful supporters, among them, Tony Blair, Rhodri Morgan and the Notional Assembly. And of course, the Western Mail / WalesOnline, which will support anything that has Labour backing. Making this the ideal time for ‘Welsh’ Labour to clear up the confusion over whether a motion supporting the barrage was passed in the 2014 conference, as is suggested by the Peter Hain tweet below from March 29, 2014. (For some reason I’m blocked from Hain’s Twitter account!) The current briefing against the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon also provides ‘Welsh’ Labour with an opportunity to make clear its position on the project. The same opportunity naturally extends to the Labour MPs and AMs around Swansea Bay . . . though of course we already know where Peter Hain stands.

Hain Labour tweet

FACT: Peter Hain and Elizabeth Haywood obviously have considerable experience and contacts in business and politics; in addition, they have a company, Haywood Hain LLP, that specialises in ‘Media and Political Communications’.

I fear there may be more to the recent attacks on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project than concern for the tranquility of a Cornish village, or a commendable regard for electricity consumers being ripped off. Big money is at stake, and – speaking for our hypothetical cynic – it could be that certain persons of influence are trying to kill off a very worthwhile and beneficial project for the Swansea Bay region.

Any further information to admin@jacothenorth.net

UPDATE 26.02.2015: As predicted above, Peter Hain has used the report produced by his wife’s former colleague to rubbish the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and promote the Lazarus Severn barrage in this piece. I know none of us think much of Llais y Sais, but does it have to be so predictably obsequious and revolting!

46 thoughts on “Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon 2: Sharks Circling?

  1. fredvallier

    Dafis — absolutely. I’m starting finally to think that my chums from Mebyon Kernow may have a point!

  2. Tapping tidal energy is a relatively small part of the Swansea Lagoon (and Cardiff-Weston barrage) schemes. Leisure facilities and development opportunities are main motivations, with the engineering feasibility and challenges taking a back seat. Wave energy devices and marine current Turbines, off coast and largely submerged, can proceed quickly as limited projects capable of extension. The Strangford Lough trial of 2008-10 was successful, then Siemens bought up the company and found the scheme for several turbines in the Anglesey Skerries was ‘uneconomic’, claiming last autumn that the sea-bed was too deep. Was in reality the public funding of £10million just too little? http://www.dailypost.co.uk/business/business-news/70m-tidal-project-anglesey-suspended-7699792. The Severn Estuary has a wide range of tidal currents and sea depths, but Siemens are moving to non-Welsh sites http://www.marineturbines.com/Projects. Concentrating publicity on tidal lagoons is muddying the waters for tidal energy generally.

  3. Daley Gleephart
  4. fredvallier

    You wilfully misunderstand me. I say “unskilled locals” because all the high-paid specialist jobs will go to incomers hired by the outside contractors. If there were some well-paid jobs, there might be more support for this project, despite the serious harm it will cause to nearby businesses. This is not a rich area (like many parts of Wales), but we don’t have to roll over and wag our collective tail to any outside business interests that might or might not provide a handful of labouring jobs. We have some of our own, actually, and they’re doing pretty well,. Or were until now. And by the way, Tidal Lagoon (or Shire Oak Quarries as they call themselves for this purpose) have expressed their “hope” that locals will be hired (they themselves will not be directly operating the quarry). I know a little bit about business, and certainly enough to know that expressing a “hope” (that is, not a guarantee) is not worth an egg cup full of spit.

    1. dafis

      You touch upon a valid point of real concern in all these projects, that is, that all the real money flows into the coffers of major corporates and their selected hangers-on while the local communities in and at the end of the supply chain are left a few crumbs ( and a lot of dust ! ) As I said a few days ago – “…..re-possession comes with progress towards independence….” Now in the case of both Wales and Cornwall that requires a degree of economic independence, underpinned by a measure of the political variety, sufficient to take control of these major deals so that benefits flow more evenly across our communities. Under our existing corporate state, we can all go & whistle for that. All the goodies flow to mainly London centred institutions and their lackeys in business & politics.

  5. fredvallier

    Oh, and by the way, what they’re planning to quarry is not Granite but Gabbro. Armor rock.

  6. fredvallier

    As an inhabitant of the Cornish village you don’t seem to care about, it is not just “tranquillity” that will be affected but scores, in fact hundreds, of local jobs, all sustainable and “light footprint”, that depend on the unspoilt nature of the area. No one wants to go on holiday next to a major industrial site, with 24-hour loading, blasting, and dust and noise pollution. A few jobs for unskilled locals may become available at the superquarry the Lagoon people want to build (up to ten times the extraction rate of the existing quarry, which no one local would oppose). Moreover, all the money from the rock will go out of Cornwall, into the pockets of the Lagoon people and their investors, instead of staying in the county, which the money from current businesses does. Shame on you. How would you feel if this was happening in Wales?

  7. Judge_D

    Where is this ‘Severn Sea’ that people here are talking about. Is it anywhere in the vicinity of the Severn Estuary?

  8. dafis

    Probably a press release from the Lagoon Company, appeared this a.m on Insider news site :

    Plans unveiled for Cardiff tidal lagoon | Insider Media


    These guys are not going to let the barrage lobby crowd out the Lagoon lobby ! also IOD now sounding off in support
    – “Robert Lloyd Griffiths of IOD Wales said: “Today’s announcement for Cardiff proves that Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon really does have the potential to kick-start a whole new industry here in Wales and what’s more it can be delivered quickly”. – which will piss Mrs Hain off because she’s supposed to be well connected to the great & good and movers & shakers and able to influence their thinking !

    1. If this Cardiff lagoon goes ahead then my only worry is that we will then be producing – with Wylfa Newydd – three or four timmes the electicity we need and, as with water exports, will still be unable to profit from it.

      1. dafis

        the challenge of re-possession comes with progress towards independence – cross border makets in energy and natural resources have existed since beginning of modern society. My worry is that the on- going begging bowl fixation of all parties in our political class diverts attention away from creative thinking about building a real economy of our own capable of interacting meaningfully with our neighbours and partners further afield. Instead we getting articles about Ms Wood’s plan to squeeze Gromit’s balls for an extra £1.2 billion. Dependency personified and reinforced in one hit !

        1. Exactly. This is just one of Plaid Cymru’s major problems, its inability to think beyond a bigger begging bowl.

  9. dafis

    Among powers to be devolved according to today’s announcement by H.M ‘s most senior flunkies were those relating to energy projects . Now, Swansea lagoon is totally within the jurisdiction of Welsh Assembly, while Severn Barrrage would require cooperation of Welsh and English governments. If Bristol continues to be a dissenting party, does this improve( politically ) the chnaces of some move forward on lagoon(s) or are we heading into yet another circular debate ending with too little, too late ?

    1. But not what I agreed with Trinity Mirror earlier today. There was also supposed to be an admission that it was not my petition.

      1. dafis

        Llais y Sais now says ……………………Furthermore, the petition was not launched by Royston Jones, it was a Plaid Glyndwr campaign that Mr Jones endorses and hosts on the site.

        That’s about as good as it gets

        Look out when they ask if they can do a feature on adventures of Jac and his pet dragon though I suspect they will be too busy covering the adventures of the London parties into Wales for next 2 months or so.

        I see that 2 clowns came down for the day today and announced a few crumbs off the table. Months ago Carwyn would have accepted with his best grovel but now that we are into election campaigning mode he wants to split hairs over size of crumb ! Now waiting for his Gromet faced boss to appear and make his weasly offering to us peasants.

    1. All falling into place, as I predicted. His wife’s colleague on the Audit Commission, who also runs Citizens Advice, conveniently brings out a report slamming the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon, which Hain then uses to breath life into his Lazarus Barrage scheme. And all this less than three months from a general election that, if Labour wins, Hain believes will see him and his missus raking it in a new Labour government proceeding with the bountiful barrage.

  10. The CAB’s calling the value-for-money “appalling” and other wording was clearly political. So you rightly identify the interests of the people behind it. But likewise the Severn mega-barrage was ‘appalling’ value.
    Off-shore lagoons interfere with public seas and have major public potential as well as downsides. They should be public projects, not left to business proposals with interest in conning us, rather than fully investigating pros and cons. The first ‘pilot’ lagoon should be an OTI (Offshore Tidal Impoundment) designed for public activities (not only boating) as well as power generation, so I thought http://www.marinet.org.uk/campaign-article/tidal-power-for-the-uk-the-severn-estuary-debate. An impoundment attached to the shore as Swansea Bay causes big changes in currents and sediments/beaches, but the off-shore ones as advocated off Rhyl by Stuart Anderson and co. are much less risky.
    With Welsh political parties largely favouring public projects and wanting control over our own energy resources, why are they not arguing for lagoon projects and technology to be publicly controlled; funded if they like by public bonds, rather than entrusting huge public subsidy to entrepreneuring con-men ?

    1. There’s a lot to be said for an OTI, though I don’t quite understand why such a design should carry less risk of change to currents, sediments, beaches. Another issue is that in the previous post I stressed the local amenity and recreational value of the Swansea lagoon, so how would people reach an OTI?

      1. dafis

        see comment at 16.35 above in response to your question posed at 15.57

        Something not working right first time !!

      2. Max Wallis

        Interferes with dynamics of the water circulation around Swansea Bay (counter-clockwise). On the Port Talbot side, a weaker counter-clockwise flow would be maintained, helped by the river Neath. On the Swansea Bay side, the Tawe works against it and I wouldn’t want to guess the result taken over all states of the Severn Estuary tides. But hindering the Swansea Bay circulation makes for more sediment dropping out of the water – and potentially finer sediments than the beautiful Swansea Bay sands.
        With an off-shore design, as in the original Tide-el proposal, the counter-clockwise circulation is maintained, though tending to scour the channel between. As for the public reaching such an offshore structure (OTI), yes, you need a ferry with jetties to cope with the tidal range – not much of a problem in the somewhat sheltered channel.

        1. And therein lies the problem. The Swansea lagoon is being promoted as much as an amenity for the locality as a source of electricity; but a lagoon out in the channel would be very different.

  11. Being a simple Welshman who likes the south coast as it round the Flatholm area. I do not want Mr Vain and his cronies building a concrete Berlin wall across the Severn Sea. Nor do I wish to pay three times the market rate for electricity to fill their pockets.

    1. Keith, be warned, if Labour wins in May the barrage projected will be ‘resurrected’ – Hain has promised that. And as I say in the post, it ties in well with the Brisdiff city region project.

    1. Obviously part of their remit, as I would expect. But singling out a specific project for condemnation goes way beyond that.

      This must be difficult for you, being both a supporter of the tidal lagoon and the Labour Party. Looks like you’re doing what staunch Labour people always do – ‘Fuck the people and their best interests, put Labour first’.

      1. Daley Gleephart

        Nice one. If I was putting the Labour Party first*, I’d have steered clear and not posted my comment at 11:59am.

  12. me

    It’s astounding that Hain has been able to peddle his commercial interest as an elected politician. It’s up there with Straw and Rifkind in terms of corruption.

    1. dafis

      not for me to defend P Hain, indeed strange for me to do so, but P Hain has always been open about his affection for the Barrage concept and stood down from a Shadow front bench role to pursue it. Vastly different to this week’s crop of delinquents who spoke of “access to ” …. and “under the radar…. ” and the usual sly, deviant nonsense that keeps cropping up when an M.P gets caught with snout appoaching trough.

      No doubt P Hain’s involvement would have been of possible advantage to the backers of the Barrage proposal, otherwise why bother roping him in, but quite tame compared to the other spivs and their antics.

      Does anybody know how much P Hain or his wife’s corporate entity were earning from the barrage venture ? If it’s disclosed and doesn’t run to a multiple of his M.P’s salary then we can stay cool. Again, old Rifkin really sets the pace with all his bollocks about being impoverished on £67k when he’s already screwing almost 3 times that out of his current crop of “external activities”. And there’s a Tory M.P from Nth Devon who’s incomes from all sorts of external sources is so high I’m damned to figure out how he gets time to sit in the House – or is he the local drug dealer ?

      1. I’m not questioning Hain’s openness about his commitment to the barrage, my worry is that in pursuit of that objective – now ‘resurrected’ with the prospect of a Labour government – promoting that may be one side of a coin of which the other is doing down the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.

        Though if we are talking of money, then Hain has had his ‘lapses’ too, not least when he ran for the deputy leadership. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7844553.stm

        1. dafis

          fair comment, though that instance was related to donations for Dep Leadership campaign, not personal remuneration, which may seem like splitting hairs to some but I assume that those donations were spent in the ( futile) chase for support, whereas salaries, fees and other forms of reward would flow into his piggy bank ( or HSBC account ! ) i.e personal gain.

          The focus now should be on “why” support the Barrage to the exclusion of all else, and where there is negative comment it must be assessed/examined to establish whether it is rational or downright devious. Equally people who are advocates of lagoons at Swansea or elsewhere must also be prepared to present their case in a logical manner. Personally I’d bang in as many of these as we possibly can in a variety of configurations, plus accelerate the development of the underwater marine turbines being tested on the west coast in Pembrokeshire which do not require as much investment in superstructure to house them. By so doing we can shift away from more investment in windfarms especially the monster arrays so favoured by the corporate bandits, and return solar to localised domestic/community scale.

          1. Hain is on record as saying (linked to in post) that tidal lagoons should not be proceeded with; the way forward is his Severn Barrage project. For him – and I suspect the UK gov’t – it’s one or the other but not both.

            1. dafis

              well they better start exploring all options because with our Japanese visitor now sticking his few bob’s worth in I suspect there will be an intensification of anti nuclear sentiment, and not just among green folk. This “either or..” nonsense is ridiculous as there could be merit in all the alternatives which need to be tested – I get the feeling at present that there’s too much energy going into slagging off other people’s ideas and not enough into detailed quantification of options. This enables high priced entrepreneurs to step in feeding speculative numbers to a bunch of dull public servants who gleefully use them in their own reports because it saves them the effort of exploring detail. Yet, as soon as a contrary opinion is offered the same dull civil servants rush off to another consultancy to undertake another review. And we are off on circular arguments which do very little to drill down into the scientific knowledge and engineering options. Until politicians and public servants modify behaviours dramatically we are not likely to get out of this type of merrygoround, and you are likely to get a decision based on who draws the prettiest picture !

        2. dafis

          they don’t, but the aerial photos would be nice to look at !

          or, boat trips from the Mumbles !

        3. Anonymous

          How does an Audit Commission exec/non exec also have her senior role at Citizen Advice ? there is scope for conflict of interest – for instance if I was not happy with conduct of Audit Commission I should be able to go to Citizen Advice without fear of being compromised by organisational overlap/cosy links.

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