Does Peelports Hunterston PARC Oil Rig Decommissioning Port require an Environmental Impact Assessment?

A Schedule 1 EIA should be instructed if the project falls within the Schedule 1 EIA project descriptions. During EIA pre-screening discussion Marine Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage advised that the project is a Schedule 1 EIA development and an Environmental Impact Assessment should have been automatically instructed for the project.

EIA Project Category Project Description Project Threshold
Schedule 1 (5c) Asbestos: for other uses of asbestos >200 tonnes per year
Schedule 1 (8b) Trading ports, piers for loading and unloading Vessels >1,350 tonnes
Schedule 1 (24) Change or extension of a project where extension meets threshold All developments 

There is no doubt, as illustrated  in planning documents, the project will involve the development of a trading port where vessels over 20,000 tonnes will be engaged in loading, unloading and the trading of scrap metal and other materials. The recent SEPA waste management license have also indicates that the port and facilities will involve handling of asbestos over schedule 1 threshold limits.

YES a Schedule 1 EIA is required under legislation for this project.

There is a three stage process that is used to determine whether  a Schedule 2 EIA should be instructed. If the answer is YES or their is any doubt to all three questions listed below an EIA should be instructed. (Please note that Questions 1 & 2 are a matter of fact and Question 3 is more subjective.)

Q1) Is the proposed development within a category set out in the EIA Schedules?

A) YES the  project falls under a number of  Schedule 2 project categories:

EIA Project Category Project Description Project Threshold
Schedule 2 (1e) Reclamation of land from sea All developments
Schedule 2 (4d) Processing of metals  Area exceeds 1000m2
Schedule 2 (4e) Installations for modification of metals Area exceeds 1000m2
Schedule 2 (4g) Shipyards Area exceeds 1000m2
Schedule 2 (10m) Coastal works All developments
Schedule 2 (11e) Scrap storage Exceeds 0.5ha and within 100m of controlled waters
Schedule 2 (13) Any change or extension of a project  When development will have significant adverse effects

If so does it;

Q2) Exceed the threshold set out for the EIA Schedule category?

A) YES the project exceeds a number of EIA project description thresholds.

Q3a) Is it in an sensitive area?

A) YES the project is in a sensitive area which include; i) Southannan SSSI, ii) Portencross SSSI, iii) Cumbraes Marine Consultation Area, iv) Fairlie Protected Shellfish Waters, v) Critical habitat for European Protected Species including harbour porpoise.

And/ Or;

Q3b) Is it likely to have a significant effect on the environment by virtue of its nature, size or location?

A) YES the project has potential for significant environmental effects.

  1. Under Nature Conservation Scotland Act 2004, any impact to a Site of Special Scientific Interest notified feature is deemed a significant impact of national importance. The development will impact the sandflats and saline pool features of the SSSI. Dredging will remove the very feature and feeder material the SSSI is notified for and may be unlawful under the 2004 Act.
  2. The dredging and removal of sediment feeder material will significantly impact the the dynamic sedimentary systems of the SSSI. This action is contrary to Joint Nature Conservation Committee SSSI boundary selection criteria and contrary to advice provided in the Scottish Natural Heritage Environmental Impact Assessment Handbook 2018.
  3. The SSSI is home to internationally protected OSPAR (Oslo-Paris Convention) Priority Marine Features that include dwarf eelgrass and rare mollusc biotopes. Suffocation of these habitats is a real threat and has been accepted in the developers own environmental review. Any threat of development to these features must be considered a significant impact of both national and international importance.

A significant environmental effect of national scope occurs when a SSSI notified feature or OSPAR listed Priority Marine Feature are threatened by development. Therefore any responsibility for the subjective consideration of Q3 by North Ayrshire Council is removed and at least a schedule 2 EIA should have been instructed.

Evidence indicates that North Ayrshire Councils and Planning Chairs actions to salami slice the project, offer mitigation as a surrogate for EIA, withhold vital information from committee members etc. has been used to purposively frustrate the  EIA decision making process.  It is wholly unacceptable for NAC to reason that no EIA is necessary because they are unlikely to be exposed to Judicial Review.

A Senior environmental Queens Council has provided an independent legal opinion that North Ayrshire Councils EIA decision making process is deeply flawed. All parties have a responsibility to realign the Hunterston project with EIA legislation.