Flora & Fauna International Call on North Ayrshire Council To Protect Biodiversity & Involve Coastal Communities In Hunterston Development Plans

We are delighted to receive the support of Flora & Forna International (FFI) for our #SaveSouthannanSands Campaign calling for environmentally safe and sustainable development of Hunterston Peninsula.

Established over a century ago, FFI is the world’s oldest international wildlife conservation organisation supported by a host of distinguished and dedicated patrons, notably including Sir David Attenborough, which has a formidable reputation for a “pioneering science-based approach to conservation with a focus is on protecting the biodiversity of life on Earth, which underpins healthy ecosystems and is critical for the life-support systems that humans and all other species rely on”.

After learning about North Ayrshire Council’s (NAC) plans to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Peel Ports in preparation for the establishment of a Ministerial Task Force, Kerri Whiteside, FFI Lead for the Scottish Coastal Communities Network has written an open letter to the NAC Senior Executive Team asserting the need for developments at Hunterston to apply legal safeguards to protect the Southannan Sands SSSI & resident OSPAR protected species, whilst also reminding them that community consultation should be at the heart of processes as required under the Aarhas Convention.

The letter makes a powerful statement saying: “With the spirit of the Scottish Government’s current intentions to reform community access to marine decision-making in mind, there is surely a great opportunity being missed at present for the North Ayrshire Council to demonstrate how it takes its role seriously in ensuring a robust process is undertaken with regards to the Hunterston PARC. We implore the Council and to uphold its responsibilities to both the local community and the local natural environment, and to ensure that biodiversity protection and community consultation is at the heart of this development’s processes.”

Read the full letter Flora & Fauna International to North Ayrshire Council:

FFI Letter Hunterston PARC_02.03.2021


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Call For Independant Investigation As Drill Ships Break Loose From Hunterston Jetty

8th February 2021

Five weeks ago two massive 250m long drill ships Valaris DS4 & DS8 arrived at Hunterston Jetty for warm stacking for an unspecified period of time. Just four weeks later communities surrounding the jetty were shocked, but sadly not entirely surprised, when both vessels broke their moorings in high winds followed by a 6 day battle in atrocious weather to secure them back at the jetty. The incident raises important questions about this specific incident, and we ask what does it tell us about the suitability of the jetty for activities proposed in the Hunterston Master Plan?

On arrival of the drill ships concerns were expressed by Fairlie Community Council (FCC) to ClydePort about the safety of the berthing arrangements. The jetty sits approximately 1km from land and is approximately 400m long. this was shorter than the 2 vessels, DS4 was berthed half on half off the jetty with the anchor deployed in an attempt to secure the bow.

Aside from the length of the vessels, the windage, i.e. the side of each boat above the water line subject to wind, is significant at approximately 8,800m2. Katabatic winds are well known in the area and wind speeds exceeding 80kts are not infrequent. Indeed, it was the quality of this wind that made the adjoining construction area the site of choice for testing the giant off shore wind turbines that were recently demolished. The weather conditions of the area, combined with the removal of the gantry cranes, which gave some cover, raised questions about  the impact of forces that boats of this size would experience if exposed to strong Easterly winds.

Compare the situation at Hunterston with that at Faslane, which is a very sheltered port operated by the Navy under the Queens Harbourmaster, they allow conventional ships in berths 1 and 2, however vessels with a windage of >3,500m2 must move off the jetty in sustained winds of >35kts.

On Tuesday 2nd February 2021, battered by strong easterly winds, a May Day was issued by DS4 which had broken free from its mooring and was drifting without power into the deep water channel towards Great Cumbrae. It soon became clear that a major incident was unfurling at Hunterston jetty as DS8 had also broken its moorings and it was only as a result of a number of chance circumstances and the swift action of the emergency services that  the drill ships were not blown into open water and potentially onto the opposite shores of Cumbrae, with high environmental damage and potential loss of life.  The area around Hunterston is of high environmental value and has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)  and is a rare ecosystem consisting of endangered species protected under OSPAR and the Nature Conservation Act.

To the alarm of onlooking residents in Fairlie, West Kilbride & Cumbrae the serious incident continued, with DS4 held at anchor in the deep water channel and DS8 being held  against the jetty by a group of tugboats overseen by the pilot boat and the coast guard, for a further 6 days until the vessels were returned to the jetty on Monday 8th February 2021.

This incident is of obvious major concern in its own right, but in the context of our well documented fears about the proposals put forward by ClydePorts, as part of Peel Ports and the wider Peel Group, to re-purpose Hunterston Terminal  for Oil Rig Decommissioning and as a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Terminal, it takes on much greater significance and provides evidence that local communities have every reason for serious safety and environmental concerns about the future use of the terminal.

These concerns are compounded by the fact that, as part of Peel Group,  ClydePort have significant commercial and property interests on the Clyde, whilst as the Clyde Port Authority they simultaneously hold  statuary powers  for marine regulation and safety enforcement for the Firth of Clyde.  We believe this presents a significant conflict of interest.

We have written  to North Ayrshire Council and Marine Scotland asking for an urgent independant and transparent investigation:

Asking the following questions:

  • Who authorised the use of the jetty for 2 vessels, where the length significantly exceeded the length of the jetty?
  • What detailed analysis was undertaken and is this documented in a full risk assessment? What formal authorisation processes where put in place by ClydePort?
  • What decision making process was undertaken to allow vessels of this windage to anchor at such an exposed site?
  • What risk assessment was undertaken regarding the event of a complete breaking of moorings?
  • Are there clear enough lines of responsibility for oversight of complex operations when, as in this circumstance, there are many subcontractors involved in the berthing arrangements?
  • What on-going monitoring of the conditions were in place at the jetty?
  • Who is paying for the emergency response and subsequent  investigation?
  • Have these vessels been deregistered as ships and re-registered as barges to reduce the minimum crew requirements of a ship?
  • What type of antifouling is used by these vessels and has this been risk assessed for long lay up?
  • The suitability of the jetty which is 52 years old, and not designed for this activity – what are the implications for similar activities promoted in the Hunterston Master Plan?

We have asked North Ayrshire Planning and Marine Scotland, to recognise that this incident highlights the unsuitability of many activities proposed in the ‘Hunterston Master Plan’ and that the scope of allowable operation needs to be assessed in light of the findings of this investigation.

Quick Links to previous news items >>>

FOFOC New Year Update 2021- Drill Ships Arrive at Hunterston

It has been some time since our last Friends of the Firth of Clyde (FOFOC) update and an awful lot has happened.  So, as we approach the start of 2021, we wanted to take this opportunity to bring you up to date with developments at Hunterston PARC and our plans over the coming year.

Success of FOFOC campaign for an Environmental Impact Assessment of the impact of proposals to bring oil-rig decommissioning to Hunterston

 In August 2018 shock at the apparent lack of concern from the responsible planning and regulatory authorities about the environmental impacts of the proposal by Peel Ports to bring oil rig decommissioning to Hunterston and Southannan Sands Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) led to the formation of FOFOC and the campaign for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to #SaveSouthannanSands.

Following more than 2 years of research, lobbying of MSPs, letter writing and postcard sending … yes! we did actually send over 3000 postcards individually signed by members of the public direct to Graham Black the Director of Marine Scotland … we were delighted that the decision was made that before any of the massive dredging of the seabed and the adjoining Southannan Sands Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) required to enable oil rig decommissioning to be bought to Hunterston an EIA WOULD BE REQUIRED.

Before we could celebrate the outcome of all our efforts Covid-19 arrived and the rest… as they say … is history. However, whilst we have been largely distracted by the pandemic, work at Hunterston has continued.

Dismantling of gantry cranes and re-arrival of large vessels at the jetty

For those of us that have been taking an interest in the removal of what were the largest gantry cranes in Europe the process of reverse engineering has been fascinating to observe. Finally, after several pauses in the itinerary for bad weather and then Covid the cranes are now down and the jetty, ‘refurbished’ with a lick of paint to bollards and Yokohama fenders, received for lay-up on 28th December 2020 two drill ships,  DS-4 & DS-8 owned by the Valaris Company.

Communication to Fairlie Community Council from the new Managing Director of Clyde Port, Jim McSporran, provided the following details: “They (DS-4 & DS-8) will be warm stacked, meaning the vessel is idle, generators used only for occasional engine maintenance and with noise suppressors in place. A skeleton crew will accompany the vessels for on-going maintenance only”.

Given the links of these vessels to the oil industry there has been speculation on social media about connection with Peel Ports previous plans for oil rig decommissioning. In response Mr McSporran has made a point of addressing concerns confirming to FCC Chair Rita Holmes that the two drill ships are not at Hunterston with the intent of decommissioning and are awaiting redeployment on a currently unknown time scale – see open communication below dated 24/12/20

Hunterston Information Memo Rita Holmes


Noise control at sea and in port is now widely recognised by the industry and regulators as an issue that cannot be ignored due to it’s impact on the health and wellbeing of marine mammals and inhabitants of coastal settlements such as Fairlie that are close to operational Ports

Many of you will be familiar with the unique features of Fairlie Bay and the impact of generator noise has been particularly noticeable when conditions are calm and generators supporting ships birthed at the jetty are running.

This issue has been raised with North Ayrshire Council Environmental Health, who have responsibility for regulating noise pollution. They have taken initial readings, which they consider to be within normal limits, but recognising that the noise can vary they have advised that anyone suffering disturbed sleep or has other concerns regarding noise from the site should contact NAC Environmental Health: environmentalhealth@northayrshire.gov.uk

We understand that the Hunterston PARC Liaison Group, which was established as required by NAC planning conditions, will continue to meet with stakeholders and we await further update from this group. We have unsuccessfully lobbied for public attendance to this meeting therefore it is important that we maintain communication with our representatives from Fairlie Community Council and Independent Councillor Ian Murdoch in order to keep us updated of developments.

Whilst much has stood still across the globe as we grapple with the pandemic, development at Hunterston PARC (Port & Resource Centre) continue and the decision for the requirement of an EIA does not mean that our aim for environmentally safe and sustainable development of Hunterston has been achieved, rather we view it merely as a chapter, all be it an important one, in the continuing saga to #SaveSouthannanSands.

Unfortunately our experience of dealing with Peel Ports leaves us realistically aware that public collaboration, transparency and the safeguarding of the environment are not always at the top of their priorities list and as emphasised by MSP Ross Greer  we need to remain alert to future developments and their potential environmental impacts.

To this end FOFOC will adopt a policy of ‘watchful waiting’ through liaison with Fairlie Community Council, other local and national stakeholders and continued observation of developments at Hunterston PARC.  So you may hear from us less frequently, but our ears and eyes remain open and we will give updates as and when we learn more.

You can find quick links to all #SaveSouthannanSands news items here >>>

Wishing everyone a happy, hopeful and safe 2021!

The Decision Has Been Made! An Environmental Impact Assessment WILL BE REQUIRED Before Hunterston Decommissioning Works Can Commence

12th March 2020

We are absolutely delighted to be able to announce that Marine Scotland & the Scottish Ministers have decided that Peel Ports’ plans for massive dredging and construction works at Hunterston to bring oil-rigs for decommissioning to Hunterston

WILL REQUIRE an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) .

Read the EIA Screening Opinion on the Marine Scotland Planning Portal>>>

Local news reporter Callum Coral of The Largs & Millport Weekly News, who has been one of the few journalist to consistently report on the FOFOC campaign, has announced the EIA outcome along with comments from North Ayrshire Council representatives  – read the full story here >>>

MSP Ross Greer who has  championed our #SaveSouthannanSands “SAY NO WAY WITHOUT AN EIA” campaign issued the following news release:

Greer Hails Community EIA Victory      

Green MSP Ross Greer has welcomed Scottish Ministers’ decision that Peel Ports must carry out a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before construction work begins on an oilrig decommissioning facility at Hunterston. West of Scotland MSP Ross Greer had worked with the Friends of the Firth of Clyde Group to persuade the Scottish Government that such an assessment must be required before hundreds of thousands of tonnes of dredging took place beside Southannan Sands, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Marine Scotland, an agency of the Scottish Government, released a letter on Monday revealing that Peel Ports must carry out the EIA before a decision can be made on whether or not to issue a license for the project

This follows over a year of campaigning by local residents, who are concerned by the likelihood of damage to the adjacent Southannan Sands Site of Special Scientific Interest. North Ayrshire Council had initially decided that an Environmental Impact Assessment was not necessary but since that stage Peel Ports have announced a significantly increased volume of dredging.

After initially supporting North Ayrshire Council’s decision, the Scottish Government confirmed in answer to a question from Ross Greer in March that they were reconsidering their position. Greer and Scottish Green environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP had supported the Friends of the Firth of Clyde campaign for Marine Scotland to require an EIA.

Greer, whose West of Scotland Region includes Hunterston, commented:

“This is fantastic news for the community in Fairlie and for the local environment. I raised this issue with government ministers in writing and in Parliament, working with the Friends of the Firth of Clyde to make the case that hundreds of thousands of tonnes of dredging beside such a sensitive site without any impact assessment would be extremely irresponsible. I am glad ministers have listened and required that a full Environmental Impact Assessment take place before this process goes any further. It is frustrating that other local MSPs wouldn’t join us in this campaign but the right outcome has been reached regardless”.

“There are some really special species in the area, including porpoises and rare seagrass, and it would have been downright irresponsible to allow this scale of dredging and piling to go ahead without a full and frank consideration on the impact. I hope that a fully informed decision can now be made on whether Hunterston is suitable for oilrig decommissioning.”

At the moment we are still taking in the news and over the next few weeks we’ll working out what this all means and what happens next. This doesn’t mean the end to our work of our holding the planning and regulatory authorities to account to protect the marine environment and the communities that surround Hunterston. The one thing we have learned is that sustained public scrutiny is essential to ensure due legal process is always followed and potential conflicts of interest are called out.

So watch this space!

But for now we just want to send every one of our Friends and Supporters a massive “Thank you” for all your support and encouragement we really couldn’t have done it without you!

We are over the moon that FINALLY the complexity of Peel Ports proposals with the associated risks to Southannan Sands SSSI and the surrounding marine environment have been taken seriously.

Peel Ports Publish Results of Hunterston PARC 2019 Public Consultation

8th March 2020

Peel Ports have published their report of the results of the Public Consultation on the development of Hunterston PARC  held during May/June2019. The consultation outlined a number of proposed uses for the site – including Marine Construction & Decommissioning, which is the item that specifically relates to Oil Rig Commissioning. In addition, Liquid Natural Gas Terminal and Gas Turbine Power Station appeared as options, alongside Aquaculture, Plastics Recycling, Modular Construction, Concrete Batching and Train Manufacturing.

Click here to read the Hunterston PARC Executive Summary >>>

The report provides an overview of responses from both individuals and organisations. Supporters will recall that FOFOC were so concerned about the lack of proactive local community engagement supporters helped with distribution of the leaflets and we conducted our own survey which was shared with Peel Ports. We were pleased to see our formal written response to the consultation and the results of FOFOC survey included in the analysis.

What are the key messages?

  • There was least support from respondents for Oil Rig Decom, LNG Terminal & Gas Turbine Power Station.
  • There was most support for construction activities and aquaculture.
  • There were concerns about the environmental impact of development and a number of respondents called for an EIA of the whole site.
  • Green energy and tourism were favoured as alternatives
  • Criticism of Peel Ports and their tenants as neighbours was expressed.
  • North Ayrshire Council Planning Committee outlined opposition to LNG storage and would encourage a renewable energy strategy for the site.
  • The Scottish Government response regarding LNG as an ‘alternative hydrocarbon resource’ energy stream raises serious questions about compatibility with zero carbon targets by 2045.
  • The Scottish Government questions how the proposed uses have been co-ordinated with other development interests in the area and how the approach taken responds to sensitive land uses around the site and the sensitivities created by the proposed uses.

Read the Hunterston PARC Executive Summary by clicking here >>>

So What Does It All Mean?

It’s difficult to know, as the report provides such a high level broad brush picture that has very little detail on the where, when or the how.

It contains a number of controversial suggestions, of which so far oil rig decommissioning is the only proposition that Peel Ports has attempted to move forward. As is well documented, our experience of this process shows that the planning and regulatory systems in place to protect both the environment and the health and wellbeing of the local community struggle to be fit for purpose when it comes to complex projects such as Hunterston PARC and do not compete on a level playing field in the minds of local and national authorities against economic arguments – even when the rigour of modelling applied to job and employment estimates is highly questionable.

Finally, one of the biggest questions is that as the consultation has been conducted after the regional planning cycle has been initiated, what is the meaning of it or is this all just part of an expensive box ticking exercise?

The Hunterston PARC Liaison Committee will be meeting on Monday 20th April 2020 and we will be asking our Community Council and North Ayrshire Council representatives to ask what are Peel Ports next steps?


Donald Trump’s Golf Course & Peel Ports Hunterston Show SSSI Status No Guarantee of Gold Standard Environmental Protection

1st Feb 2020

In the Scottish Wetlands Debate held in the Scottish Parliament on 15th January 2020, MSP Ross Greer highlighted  Peel Ports proposals at Hunterston along with Donald Trump’s golf course at Menie as evidence that SSSI doesn’t necessarily provide a gold standard of protection:

Ross said:

“We have heard about the importance of wetlands to our biodiversity and the wealth of fantastic and rare species that they support. That is why, this past February, I raised concerns about the Scottish Government’s new guidance on the protection of our 51 Ramsar sites. The Scottish Government’s response was to insist that the fact that those are designated as sites of special scientific interest gives them adequate protection, but the evidence suggests otherwise, as the impact of Donald Trump’s golf course, and many other developments, has shown.

In my region, there is still a question over whether the guidance will protect Southannan Sands, a fantastic marine environment at Hunterston, which is threatened by a dredging proposal. The Southannan situation should illustrate starkly the inadequacy of relying on SSSI designation for protection. If 0.5 million tonnes of dredging to decommission oil rigs in the same location does not automatically trigger the need for an environmental impact assessment, those regulations clearly need to be strengthened.”

Read MSP Ross Greer comments and the debate in full >>>>

We will continue to hold the planning and regulatory authorities to account for their decision making on whether they will “SAY NO WAY WITHOUT AN EIA” #SaveSouthannanSands


Questions Raised About Impact of Dredging on Radioactive Isotopes Trapped in Sediment Surrounding Hunterston Nuclear Power Station

1st February 2020

At the centre of the FOFOC campaign for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of Peel Ports proposals for oil rig decommissioning  at Hunterston is the concern that a ‘salami slicing’ approach to planning and licensing applications has been strategically adopted to avoid scrutiny of the overall and cumulative impact of the project on the surrounding marine ecosystem, which is home to a number of OSPAR protected species and Southannan Sands Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Hunterston is also surrounded by a number of coastal communities with their own concerns for the health and wellbeing of residents.

Those who are familiar with the geography of Hunterston Peninsula will be aware that the site of the proposed decommissioning project is a close neighbour of Hunterston Nuclear Power Station, which has itself been the subject of national scrutiny following the discovery of hundreds of cracks in the graphite bricks within the reactor core of Hunterston B.  Hunterston B is served by a secondary water cooling system which is licensed to discharge waste coolant containing legally agreed levels radioactive isotopes via a number of ‘outfalls’ back into the sea.

The closest of these outfalls is approximately 1km from the proposed dredging area.

The issue of nuclear safety at Hunterston is of considerable interest to the local and wider community.

On the 5th September 2019 a representative of the Friends of Firth of Clyde attended the Hunterston Site Stakeholder Group (SSG)to ask the following questions.

(i) What is the level of radioactivity within the sediment at Hunterston and what implications might significant dredging in the area have on its release into the marine environment?

(ii) What is the planning / licensing relationship between Hunterston Nuclear Site & Hunterston PARC?

(iii) What liaison /communication had taken place between the Nuclear Licensing Division of SEPA and the SEPA Waste Management Division that was consulted by Marine Scotland regarding the EIA Screening?

A SEPA inspector for Hunterston, explained that radioactive discharge is trapped within the sediment surrounding Hunterston, and that Sellafield also has an influence on the west coast.

He confirmed that environmental monitoring is a site requirement and anything discharged in to the marine environment is lawfully discharged under permit via the outfalls. He explained that any activity which involved disturbance of sediment surrounding Hunterston would require, as part of any licensing process, an assessment of the likelihood of any radioactive deposits being disturbed and if over the legal limit, a further permit would be required and the Health and Safety Executive would have to be consulted on the subsequent disposal of any radioactive material.

The SEPA inspector stated that at the time of the meeting the Nuclear Licensing Division of SEPA had not had any contact regarding the Hunterston decommissioning proposals, but as a statutory consultee SEPA would be consulted on any planning application. By this stage we were aware that SEPA Waste Management Division had responded to Marine Scotland as a Statuary Consultee leading us to believe that the question of the impact of dredging on radioactive sediment had not been addressed.

Further more on 8th November 2019 Envirocentre submitted supplementary information to Marine Scotland that included a section on disposal of dredged material which makes no reference to the potential radioactive risks of the sediment and states:

“The Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO) for disposal of the dredge material has identified the following preferred options:

  • material re‐use as part of the wider site redevelopment;
  • material re‐use (partial) at a site along the coast at Ardrossan if dredge and development timings are compatible. “

We have written to Marine Scotland asking that they urgently confirm that:

  • The response to the EIA screening they have received from SEPA addresses the risk and impacts of disturbing radioactive sediment and evidences that the response has been drawn-up in collaboration with colleagues from the Nuclear Licensing Division
  • That they have clearly addressed and risk assessed the implications for the marine ecosystem and human health and safety.

We await a response from Marine Scotland.

Freedom of Information Request Reveals Peel Ports Has a Direct Line to Minister Responsible for Issuing Decision on EIA For Southannan Sands SSSI

18th January 2020

In August 2019 the FoFoC received the results of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request that was submitted to Marine Scotland (MS) for all correspondence relating to the Peel Ports marine licence application for works at Hunterston.

Read the full account of our FOI to MS here>>>

The response revealed that Peel Ports had submitted an application  in November 2018 for 12 times the amount of dredging they had declared at the Public Pre Application Consultation (PAC) held in Fairlie in August 2018. On the advice of MS this application was withdrawn and a revised version was submitted, this time for three times the volume, which triggered the need for a new EIA Screening Opinion request that was submitted in March 2019. Since this time MS have deferred the EIA Screening decision three times in the basis of the ‘complex and complicated nature’ of the Hunterston Project.

The requests from MS for more detailed information has not been taken well by Peel Ports, who it appears were looking for a quick decision.

Interestingly, the FOI request contained an email from Envirocentre (Peel Ports representatives) to Marine Scotland on 17th July 2019 which can only be described as confrontational stating that they “intend to take up the matter with the minster”. We understand that the minster who will issue the decision on the EIA screening is Cabinet Secretary MSP Roseanna Cunningham who holds the portfolio for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.

In the email Envirocentre (Peel Ports representatives) state:

“Having spoken to our Clients (Peel Ports) I would summarise their response as follows:

  1. They (Peel Ports) are extremely disappointed at the lack of momentum and consider that there has been adequate time within which to request the additional data, prior to now;
  2. They (Peel Ports) intend to take the matter up with the minster responsible; and
  3. They  (Peel Ports) do not agree that the project is complicated or complex and that the reluctance in making a decision is purely down to ‘public interest’ as noted in your previous correspondence 

Read the full email below:



We have raised the suggestion of influence via the minister with the Director of Marine Scotland, Graham Black who has assured us that, despite being a civil service directorate within the Scottish Government, their work is free from political interference and their decision-making is based on the evidence and guided by the relevant legal framework.

We have no reason not to believe that Marine Scotland is honest in the assertion that they undertake their responsibilities free of political interference.

However, the fact that Peel Ports clearly want MS to know they have a direct line of communication to the minster raises significant questions of transparency about the nature and influence of relationships between ministers and large-scale developers and industrialists such as Peel Ports who are pursuing permission for complex developments in highly environmentally sensitive areas and particularly at Southannan Sands SSSI at Hunterston.

We await announcement of the outcome of the EIA Screening Opinion  which is expected Mid January 2020




‘The Devil Is In The Detail’ – Marine Scotland Must Clearly Define ‘The Project’

6th November 2019

Whilst we wait for the outcome of Marine Scotland’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Screening Opinion we have been making sure that no stone is unturned and the public eye remains focussed on ensuring the regulatory and planning authorities are rigorously held to account for their decision on whether an EIA is required before Peel Ports’ plans for oil rig decommissioning can progress.

Having been delayed for a third time by Marine Scotland (MS), their current date for publication of the EIA Screening Opinion date is January 2020.

Following our meeting in Edinburgh with MS we have been in correspondence to clarify an outstanding issue regarding the exact definition of  ‘The Project’ and the way in which the ‘salami slicing‘ of the planning and licensing applications into smaller discrete elements avoids full scrutiny of the overall cumulative impact of Peel Ports’ decommissioning plans.

Never has it been truer that ‘The Devil is in the Detail’.

There are a number of EIA regulatory provisions that, in consultation with our QC, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and other experts, we believe must be taken into account:

Defining ‘The Project’

Reading across the regulations the scope of the ‘The Project’ under consideration in an EIA screening must include the cumulative impact of the work to be carried out; and that, if the project consists of a number of different works, all elements of the work should be considered as part of  ‘The Project’ if one part of the works would not go ahead without the other.

  • Schedule 3 of The Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations (2017) (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2017/115/schedule/3/made) clearly states that  “The characteristics of works must be considered having regard, in particular, to – cumulation with other existing works and/or approved works” (Section 1(b)) and that  “The likely significant effects of the works on the environment must be considered in relation to criteria set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 above, with regard to the impact of the works on the factors specified in regulation 5(3), taking into account …. .the cumulation of the impact with the impact of other existing and/or approved works  (Section 3(g))
  • Section 45 of the Planning Circular 1/ 2017 (https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/advice-and-guidance/2017/05/planning-circular-1-2017-environmental-impact-assessment-regulations-2017/documents/00518122-pdf/00518122-pdf/govscot%3Adocument/00518122.pdf ) also  provides the following advice – “In determining whether significant effects are likely, planning authorities should have regard to the cumulative effects of the project under consideration, together with any effects from existing or approved development. Generally, it would not be feasible to consider the cumulative effects with other applications which have not yet been determined, since there can be no certainty that they will receive planning permission. However, there could be circumstances where 2 or more applications for development should be considered together. Such circumstances are likely to be where the applications in question are not directly in competition with one another so that both or all of them might be approved, and where the overall combined environmental impact of the proposals might be greater or have different effects than the sum of the separate parts. The consideration of cumulative effects is different in principle from the issue of multiple applications which need to be considered together

So What Does All This Technical Stuff Mean?

Section 45 in particular sums up the situation at Hunterston, as there can be absolutely no doubt that the “overall combined impact of the proposals” will “be greater or have different effects than the sum of the separate parts.” They are all one project. The dredging works and the caisson gates and the jetty extension are all part of the larger decommissioning project. The dredging works and the caisson gates and the jetty extension are only required if the decommissioning of marine vessels goes ahead.

In reality these works are all mutually dependent on one another as the decommissioning of marine vessels cannot go ahead without the dredging, the formation of the new jetty and the caisson gates. They must therefore be considered together as ‘The Project’ in evaluating the need for an EIA before a dredging licence is issued.

That being the case, we believe:

1) That ‘The Project’ under consideration in the EIA Screening must include the larger decommissioning project, because of the cumulative impact of the dredging as part of the larger Project

2) That ‘The Project’ must be properly defined to all of the consultees in order to avoid the confusion that we are observing between consultees, who are giving advice based on differing views about which  Schedule 1/Schedule 2 definition, if any at all, the proposed works fall under.

Port V’s Terminal – What’s the difference?

Finally, Peel Ports have asserted that it is impossible for the proposed works to be considered as a Schedule 2 development as Hunterston is a ‘Terminal’ not a ‘Port’. Despite hard evidence of Peel Ports itself referring to Hunterston as a Port – for example most recently in its own 20 year Plan as the ‘The Hunterston Port and Resource Centre’ for the purposes of its application to MS it asserts it is in fact a Terminal.

This is another technical distinction, that would normally pass most of us by as of no importance, however it is crucially important in the case of Hunterston as it being used to directly influence the shape and scope of the EIA screening opinion.

Despite Peel Ports assertions our understanding is that Schedule 2 (13) refers not only to an extension to a port but to a change which means that it is not as Peel suggest, impossible for the proposed works to be a Schedule 2 development.

All of this amounts to a highly compelling case that ‘The Project’ should be defined as encompassing all the separate salami sliced elements of the decommissioning proposals at Hunterston and an EIA is required under the legislation.

Plans to Remove Second ‘Giant’ Wind Turbine from Hunterston Construction Yard by Controlled Explosion

22nd September 2019

The local community was shocked and surprised to learn that the ‘giant’ 177m test wind turbine that remains on Hunterston construction yard is to be felled by explosives!

It’s difficult not to see this as another example of industrial operators at Hunterston paying little regard to the environmental impact of their operations. In addition to the concern about toppling one of the largest wind turbines in Europe next to a SSSI, the wisdom of felling something of this scale next door to Hunterston B Nuclear Power Station when EFD Energy has just restarted cracked Reactor 4 has not gone unnoticed.

An article on 12 September in the Largs and Millport Weekly News gave an extensive explanation of the reason for demolition, with reference to a NAC spokesperson saying that SSE had advised them that crane dismantling of the turbine had been blocked by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). One of our supporters with professional experience in the field thought this explanation unlikely, as HSE normally do not get closely involved in such decision-making processes. Usually HSE expect the responsible company to determine their own risk based assessment and then to be held to it.

When contacted direct HSE to ask if they had prevented crane demolition of the turbine  the answer from HSE was a definite “No”. They have not told SSE that they cannot take this turbine down using crane dismantling as reported in the local press.

So what are we to believe and who is accountable?

As summer draws to a close, we are left wondering what further surprises our neighbours at Hunterston have in store. It seems that even with companies such as SSE, who state they support green energy and the eco culture, we cannot be sure that the information made available to the community is transparent and that decisions are genuinely underpinned by environmental best practice and not purely on cost.