“NO WAY WITHOUT AN EIA!” – FoFoC Write to Marine Scotland Calling For An Environmental Impact Assessment of Hunterston Plans

Following the shocking revelations about Peel Ports revised plans for dredging Southannan Sands SSSI . We now know that Peel Ports have submitted a request for a new EIA Screening Opinion to Marine Scotland (MS) and we have consulted with our QC and written to Marine Scotland calling for them to exercise their powers to require an EIA before any dredging or construction consents are granted.

Despite written assurances from Marine Scotland that FoFoC would
be kept informed of licence application developments; a number of
meetings with representatives of North Ayrshire Council (NAC), Peel
Ports representatives being asked directly about progress at the
Public Master Plan Exhibition in Fairlie; our public meeting in
Largs and the first meeting of the Hunterston Liaison Committee being held on 18th March 2019 both the FOFOC and Fairlie Community
Council remained completely unaware of these developments until FoFoC told them what we had discovered.

We have written an open letter to Marine Scotland (MS) which you can read in full below:



“NO WAY WITHOUT AN EIA” #SaveSouthannanSands


Friday 26th July 2019


What Do You Need to Know About The Marine Scotland Licence Application?

Marine Scotland (MS) is the directorate within Scottish Government that is responsible for leading the protection of  Scotland’s coastal waters and seas with ‘the duel aim of  building sustainable economic growth from Scotland’s marine assets, and to safeguard its valuable marine ecosystems’. Marine licences are issued by Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team (MS-LOT) which are required for activities including:

  • the removal of substances or objects from the sea bed
  • construction, alteration and improvement works
  • dredging

Hunterston Construction Yard requires all of the above to become a viable site for decommissioning. In 2016, GMB Scotland commissioned a review entitled ‘Status Capacity and Capability of North Sea Decommissioning Facilities‘, in this detailed analysis of decommissioning sites in the UK and Norway, Hunterston is evaluated (pg 55) as having the worst decommissioning readiness out the total 19 facilities across the UK (17) and Norway(2)

The scale of development required to make the site fit for purpose, is reflected in the scale and extent of the work expected to be applied for in the marine licence application. The dry dock is delict and requires substantial dredging, piling and construction work; plus there is the need for extension of the hammerhead quay. This work will include thousands of tonnes of sand being dredged from the area of Southannon Sands, which is the location of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) that is of national importance for its sandflats, with intertidal seagrass meadows and active shell fish bed, all of which are Priority Marine Features.

In addition, the construction work will require  substantial and prolonged piling required for the  installation of caisson gates. This work will produce high levels of vibration and noise in the marine and land environment, which is known to be harmful to the health of marine mammals and invertebrates. The area is home to a range of marine life including porpoise, seals and a very special solitary dolphin nicknamed ‘Kylie’, who inhabits the  waters immediately next to the proposed construction area. Kylie has recently received international recognition in the scientific community for being the first dolphin to be discovered  directly communicating with the porpoise that he lives with, you might have seen his story recently featured on the BBC One Show

All of this means it is essential that we hold Marine Scotland to account, to make sure that they fully scrutinise the marine licence application in light of all the facts of the development and assess its risks as part of the larger whole of the decommissioning project; rather than each separate element of planning and licensing being ‘salami sliced’ to avoid the full impact being scrutinised. Crucially we are calling on Marine Scotland to now require a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

We understand that the Marine Licence for ‘Hunterston Marine Construction Yard’ has been submitted, but it currently is still showing as in pre-application stage on the planning portal. We have asked to be informed when it is  open for public consultation.

On 20th December 2018, in advance of the licence application, the FoFoC sent  a formal letter to Mike Bland (CEO MS) outlining the significant flaws in the planning processes and explaining our reasons for requesting that that no decision be made about the application without the full environmental effects being considered and an EIA being undertaken.

You can read our full letter to Marine Scotland below.

What’s Next? Here’s where we need your help.

As soon as the Marine Licence Application is open to public consultation we will be asking all FoFoC supporters, their friends, family and concerned citizens to help strengthen the case for an EIA by writing to Marine Scotland expressing their concerns.

We know that many of our supporters are very busy and don’t have time to read and digest all the information in this complex and challenging case, so we are currently working on a Brief Guide to Objecting to a Marine Scotland Licence Application, so you can object with confidence that you are covering the important areas. As soon as we have this prepared we will share it with you.

Friends of the Firth of Clyde Letter of Objection to Marine Scotland 20th December 2018

Marine Scotland Letter (Final)


*Contact us direct for more information on the supporting appendices

Please Keep Watching This Space.

Wishing All FOFOC Supporters a Happy and Safe 2021!

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:

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) ( 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 ( ) 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.

SEPA Grants Permission For Peel Ports To Process 250,000 Tonnes Of Unspecified Oil Rig Waste At Hunterston Without An Environmental Impact Assessment

2nd September 2019

As result of enquiries to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), the Friends of the Firth of Clyde (FoFoC) have learned that a Waste Management Licence (WML) was granted to Clydeport Operations Ltd (AKA Peel Ports) on 12th July 2019. Alarmingly, the nature of the license and its contents confirm our view that the current licensing procedures are  simply not designed to cope with oil rig decommissioning. The nature of the license leaves us extremely worried about the capability and capacity of SEPA to oversee and enforce the highest environmental standards required to ensure the protection of the communities and intertidal waters surrounding Southannan Sands SSSI.

In addition, we have also learned that SEPA have responded to Marine Scotland (MS) as a statutory consultee to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Screening Opinion currently being conducted by MS, indicating they are of the opinion that the decom ‘project’ does not require an EIA. It would appear that to reach this decision they have considered ‘the project’ as covering the dredging in isolation not the whole project, as required by the EIA guidelines.

Disappointingly, despite early assurances from SEPA that we would be kept informed of developments, it is only through our own persistent efforts that we have remained in the picture. Sadly this is an other example of the ‘salami slicing’ of the regulatory and licensing processes which makes it really difficult for the local community and wider public to understand the sheer enormity of what is being permitted to happen at Hunterston and the surrounding waters of the Firth of Clyde.

Read the Waste Management License issued by SEPA ,12 July 2019 NB hover over bottom of doc to scroll through pages

WML Issued 12 Jun 19 SEPA-APP-RPS01_GLWN_PRN005218_2389_001


What does the Waste Management Licence allow Clydeport (AKA Peel Ports) to do?

  • ‘Treatment & keeping’ of 250,000 tonnes of unspecified waste on site at any one time. We know from the WML application submitted in October 2018 that this will include unprecedented amounts of scrap metal, asbestos, PBCs, NORM and organic marine matter.

See below: Extract of Clydeport / Peel Ports WML application – Table of Waste Type & Volume (Oct ’18) NB hover over bottom of doc to scroll through pages

Waste table


  • The licence defines an ‘Asset’ as “an installation or vessel used in the offshore production of oil or gas (or part of such an installation or vessel) which is waste”.
  • All the procedural controls rely on a ‘Asset Specific’ assessment being undertaken 30 days before it is accepted into the Hunterston decom facility.
  • It is not clear where the ‘Asset Specific’ assessment would take place – for example, if the ‘asset’ was a semi-submersible rig, which is classified as a vessel, this could take place at Hunterston Coal Jetty or at a cold stacking site such as Loch Striven, as was suggested by Peel representatives at the Marine Scotland PAC meeting in August ’18 . As the ‘Competent Harbour Authority’ Peel hold statutory powers over pilotage across the Firth of Clyde and make  all decisions regarding the mooring and movement of vessels in its waters.
  • Troublingly the licence uses inconsistent wording , which raises the question of whether ‘Disposal’ will or will not be allowed at the site – this would open Hunterston to becoming a massive land fill site, potentially containing massive amounts of metals, asbestos and rotting marine matter.
  • No ‘Working Plan’ is provided and presumably until an operator is in place this will not be available. As such there is extremely little detail about the operational workings of the site. *NB CessCom Decom have removed their signs from the entrance to the site suggesting they are no longer operational at Hunterston – despite reports in the Carrick Gazette that, as an Ayrshire based company, they have awarded £100k loan by Business Loans Scotland (BLS).
  • There is no description of how disposal and treatment of the substantial volumes of water required for cleaning  of the scrap, control of dust and noxious odours from the organic materials will be managed.
  • There is no description of how waste materials will be transported from the site.
  • There is a requirement for impermeable surfaces, the site is built on an area at risk to wave over topping on reclaimed land. We have longstanding evidence of leakage of coal slurry from the construction yard into the SSSI from previous operations.
  • The interchangeability of ‘Clydeport Operations Ltd’ & ‘Peel Ports’, both of which are ultimately ‘Peel Group’, through the different licensing processes makes it very difficult to track which part of the organisation is responsible for which part of the operation, for example the marine licence for the construction of the site has been lodged by Peel Ports. Whilst operationally this might not be of importance, it does reflect the complexity, not just of the Hunterston decom project, but also of Peel Group’s business structures.

In short, the wellbeing and safety of the community, the protection of Southannan Sands SSSI and the sustainability of the marine environment is totally dependent on SEPA making the right decisions in a very short, 30 day, time period between the information coming from the Licence Holder and the ‘Asset’ arriving.

What is the relevance of the WML to Friends of the Firth of Clyde call for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)?

Those supporters that have followed, what Marine Scotland (FOI correspondence, 30th August ’19) & Scottish Govt advisors (FOI correspondence, June 2019) have both described as a  ‘complex and complicated case’, will recall that FoFoC raised initially significant concerns about the WML application submitted by Clydeport (AKA) Peel Ports in October 2018.

What was our objection to the WML?

A WML is the type of licence required by scrap dealers and waste transporters.

The fundamental basis of our objection to the WML application was that the three (salami sliced) planning permissions granted by North Ayrshire Council, without the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in April 2018, were granted on the written agreement that Pollution Prevention & Control (PPC) Licence would be required for full assessment and mitigation of the acknowledged risks to the environment, including the SSSI.

See below correspondence between NAC & Envirocentre acting on behalf of Peel Ports (Jan 2018) NB hover over bottom of doc to scroll through pages


Redacted re PPC NAC 7 10th Jan 2018 H-EnvCentre letter to NAC Enviro Strategy 17_01273


What is a PPC Licence? PPC (Scotland) regulations apply an integrated environmental approach to the regulation of certain industrial activities. The main aim of PPC is to achieve a high level of protection of the environment taken as a whole this means environmental risks caused by emissions to air, water and land, plus a range of other environmental effects, must be considered together rather than assessing individual emissions or unit operations in isolation.

SEPA have openly acknowledged that existing regulation & licensing systems are not fit for the purpose for the emerging oil & gas installation decommissioning industry. In October 2018 they opened the public consultation on their new sector plan for oil and gas decommissioning “which will bring a clear and coordinated approach to regulation. It will put environmental protection and sustainable resource use at the heart of its development, managing decommissioned waste streams in ways that create economic and social success from environmental excellence”. SEPA’s sector plan highlights the complexity and environmental risks of a poorly managed /regulated decommissioning industry. This means that whilst we await the final adoption of the sector plan, Clydeport (AKA Peel Ports) decommissioning activities will be managed within a licensing framework which, by SEPA’s own admission, is not fit for purpose.

What next?

We will be following up the implications of the WML with SEPA & our QC.

“SAY NO WAY WITHOUT AN EIA”  #SaveSouthannanSands.

NEWS RELEASE: Green Environment Spokesperson backs EIA campaign

We are delighted that our campaign for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of Peel Ports proposals to dredge over 600,000 m3 of sand from the area of Southannan Sands Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) continues to gain momentum.

Since the Public Meeting on 8th August at Largs Academy supporters have sent over 3000 individually signed “NO WAY WITHOUT AN EIA” postcards to Graham Black at Marine Scotland and our online petition is moving towards 5000 signatures.

On the 28th August 2019  the Green Party issued the following News Release:

The campaign to protect an internationally important marine habitat off Hunterston received a further boost today as another MSP added his name to calls for a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to take place.

Mark Ruskell MSP, Environment Spokesperson for the Scottish Greens joined North Ayrshire’s Green MSP Ross Greer in supporting local campaigner’s calls for the assessment to take place before dredging and construction work for a decommissioning facility can be licenced by Marine Scotland.

Marine experts believe the Southannan Sands ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ (SSSI), which is directly adjacent to the proposed decommissioning site, is home to mussels, seagrass and other rare species. Dolphins, porpoises and seals have also been found in water nearby. Marine Scotland, a government agency, are currently considering whether to require that a full EIA is carried out. A local petition asking for the impact assessment has gathered nearly 5000 signatures.

Ruskell commented:

“While decommissioning oil rigs is a key part of greening industry, creating jobs and turning our back on fossil fuels, it’s completely counterproductive and totally unnecessary to risk destroying valuable habitats to do it. We need to know what’s there and what the risks are, and only an EIA can do that. I fully back the residents’ campaign saying “no way without an EIA””.

Ross Greer, who attended a public meeting this month in support of local residents commented:

“I’ve written to Marine Scotland, asking that they listen to the petition and require an EIA. The impact of both the construction and operation is clearly going to be huge and existing assessments just aren’t enough. The expected amount of dredging has more than tripled since the plans were first lodged and now stands at 615,000 cubic metres of sand. That huge change alone should be enough to trigger a full investigation of the impact’.

We are grateful to everyone that is working so hard to raise the profile of our campaign to #SaveSouthannanSands and we continue to demand that Marine Scotland say “NO WAY WITHOUT AN EIA” to Peel Ports Plans for oil rig decommissioning  at Hunterston.