'Lagoon's environmental impact will be limited'
THE firm behind ambitious plans to build a tidal lagoon power station in Swansea Bay have taken a significant step forward with the presentation of the results of the project's environmental impact.
More than 100 members of the public attended a detailed presentation of the research at the Liberty Stadium, which covered a range of topics from landscaping and access to water quality, sediment transportation and marine ecology.
The document — known as an Environmental Impact Assessment or EIA — will form part of the planning application for the scheme, which developers hope to submit on December 6.
Alex Herbert, head of planning for Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay, the firm behind the scheme, said: "We recognise that no major infrastructure project of this scale can be developed without some environmental impact and have sought to minimise that in all aspects of the project's design.
"Work presented for formal consultation in July and August, in the Preliminary Environmental Information Report, showed that potential effects during construction, operation and decommissioning phases are limited in magnitude and predominantly contained to Swansea Bay itself.
"The results of the full EIA provide further detail from the independent experts conducting these assessments, as well as mitigation measures being proposed. We are delighted that so many local people have taken the time to attend the event, and we look forward to continuing our work on the remaining issues that we need to address before an application is submitted to the inspectorate."
The proposed lagoon comprises a six mile long U-shaped seawall running from Swansea docks out into the bay sea and re-joining land next to Swansea University's under-construction Science and Innovation Campus on Fabian Way.
It will use 16 turbines to generate power with the ebb and flow of the tides — supporters say it will generate the equivalent electricity used by 121,000 households. There are also plans for a visitor centre on the lagoon, a sailing club, educational facilities, works of art and parkland.
Yesterday's presentation at the Liberty revealed a wealth of detail — much of it highly technical — about the plans for the lagoon and its impact on the bay. The main road access for the scheme will be via Fabian Way, with a new road being built from the junction near the McDonald's restaurant to run to run around the existing docks to the western end of the lagoon — near the mouth of the River Tawe — where there will be a car park for 300-plus vehicles, a sailing club and other buildings, and parkland. From there visitors will be able to walk out onto the seawall — to the visitor centre more than two miles out into the bay, or for a complete circuit which will take walkers around the lagoon to the edge of Crymlyn Burrows.
More than 176 million cubic feet of sediment will be dredged from the floor of the bay to fill giant geobags that form the seawalls, which will then be covered with two million tonnes of rock.
The Liberty Stadium meeting heard the structure would have effects on tide flows within the bay — especially around the mouth of the River Neath and to the west of the lagoon — and cause an increase in the tidal speed between the lagoon and Mumbles.
There will also be effects on the pattern of sand transportation in the bay, and wave height at Mumbles could be increased by almost 20in in a "worst case scenario".
The meeting heard from water quality expert Nick Barcock, who said overall the effects of the lagoon on bathing water quality in the bay, from Mumbles to Aberavon, would be "benign".
Bernard Ainsworth, a member of Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay's construction board, told the Liberty audience that the company had always been clear there would be environmental impacts but that they were "minor and mitigatable".
Many in the audience said they had been impressed by what they had heard — but still had reservations.
John Phillips, 67, from West Cross, a retired engineer who used to run the control room at the Tir John power station in Port Tennant, said: "I am very positive about the project, though I would like to know more about the effects on beaches in the western bay.
"The benefits on the whole far outweigh the problems — it is a wonderful opportunity for Swansea."
Sixty-six year old Steve Bolchover, from Gowerton, said he was a strong supporter of harnessing tidal power to generate electricity — but had concerns about the impact of the project on Crymlyn Burrows, a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
But one Mumbles resident was rather less than impressed, saying the lagoon would "despoil" a unique bay and cause problems for sailors — and suggesting they build it east of Margam instead.