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 On the advice of MS this application was withdrawn and a revised version was submitted, this time for three times the volume, which triggered the need for a new EIA Screening Opinion request that was submitted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.


Support for #SaveSouthannanSands Campaign Grows: 100 attend public meeting at Largs Academy, 8th August 2019

Despite the short notice we were delighted to welcome on a lovely sunny evening in Largs over one hundred people to the Peel Ports oil rig decom proposals update meeting that was organised by Independent Councillor Ian Murdoch,  six months on from our first public meeting in Feb 2019.

MSP Ross Greer, who has championed our cause in the Scottish Parliament, joined us for the meeting and provided illuminating insights into the role of Scottish ministers and elected representatives in developments at Hunterston. Supporters may recall it was the Parliamentary Question asked by Ross in March 2019, that prompted MSP Kenneth Gibson’s shocking retaliatory supplementary  question and highlighted the political agendas running beneath the support for Peel Ports’ plans, irrespective of  whether it leads to the destruction of Southannan Sands SSSI. Listening to Kenneth Gibson’s outburst it appears that irreparable damage to the SSSI is considered an acceptable risk to take, as there is apparently a clause in the £10m grant awarded to Peel by Scottish Enterprise that if they damage the SSSI they will have to pay some of it back!

This of course totally misses the point – you can’t ‘buy’ a new SSSI when you have destroyed the one you have and Peel Ports, backed by their multi billion £ offshore parent company Peel Group, will have factored a cost benefit analysis of the risk of environmental damage into their business plan. The lack of transparency surrounding the application to Marine Scotland leads us to suspect that Peel would rather take the relatively minor financial hit than have the environmental impact on the SSSI systematically and transparently assessed.

Watch Ross Greer’s Parliamentary Question below:

The evening was chaired by Councillor Ian Murdoch who provided an overview of his tireless efforts to shine a light on North Ayrshire Council’s role in allowing the conditions under which the ‘salami slicing’ of early land based planning  applications allowed Peel Ports to progress their plans for decommissioning at Hunterston without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Ian has diligently analysed the planning processes and asked over 20 questions in council sessions over the past 12 months, council meetings are live streamed and all  archived in the NAC webcast library.

See below for a Quick Guide to Councillor Murdock’s Questions with web links: (NB hover over lower bar to click through pages)


IM NAC Council Questions June 2018-June 2019


Quick Links to North Ayrshire Council Webcasts:

Date of Meeting Click to connect to NAC Webcast and select individual questions from agenda
June 2018
December 2018
February 2019
March 2019
June 2019


The Friends of the Firth of Clyde (FoFoC) presented an overview of the unique ‘Ecosystem Service’ of the Seagrass Meadow and OPSAR protected species that are residents of Southannon Sands SSSI. This was followed by an update on the planning and licence applications to date, with particular focus on the importance of the ongoing Marine Scotland (MS) EIA Screening Opinion and the shocking revelations from a Freedom of Information (FIO) request in June that revealed the significant changes to Peel Ports plans.


View our presentation below: (NB hover over lower bar to click through slides)


Largs Update 08Aug19-2 FINAL


A question and answer session followed the presentations that allowed members of the audience to clarify their understanding and probe members of FoFoC further about planning and licensing issues. The discussion highlighted the growing public concern about the implications of there being no EIA of Peel Ports proposals for both the local area of Hunterston but also, as pointed out by Councillor Murdoch, for the future of planning and regulation of marine development all along the entire Firth of Clyde.

The meeting concluded with a call to action for everyone to tell MS “No Way Without An EIA”. We have already posted 1500 #SaveSouthannanSands postcards to Graham Black, Director of MS and this number is growing by the day, with individual postings and emails.

Everyone was urged to make a pledge and take urgent action:

  • Send a FoFoC Postcard to Marine Scotland – Postcards are available from Fairlie Village Inn or if you are a group contact us direct and we will send a pack direct to you.
  • E-mail Marine Scotland FOA Graham Black , click here for suggested text >>>
  • Lobby the 8 West Coast MSP’s: (Lab) (Con) (Lab) (Con) (Con) (Green) (None) (SNP)

Closing message from the FoFoC

Time is of the essence, there is overwhelming evidence that Marine Scotland should require an EIA of Peel Ports proposals, but we also know there are factors at play that are significant influencers on the planning and regulatory system. Our support is growing locally, regionally and nationally. We continue in the fight for transparency and rigour in the decision making processes for the licensing of decommissioning of oil rigs at Hunterston and we will take every step possible to hold the planning and regulatory authorities to account for the decisions they make that will affect Southannan Sands and the communities that live with the impact of Peel Ports plans now and in the future.“NO WAY WITHOUT AN EIA” #SaveSouthannanSands 

9th August 2019



“NO WAY WITHOUT AN EIA” – A Quick Guide to Southannan Sands SSSI & the Peel Ports Decom Proposal

 Postcard Signing Briefing Paper: Friends of The Firth of Clyde – No Way Without an EIA #SaveSouthannanSands

Read the full briefing document here>>>

Postcard Guide


What does the Briefing Say?

The sea shore from Fairlie to Portencross is very important for the welfare of the environment and the native wildlife.

It has been designated a SSSI – Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its importance to the Clyde environment.

The sea shore is a very gradual slope out towards the deep water channel which the large ships navigate – this makes the tide come in and out at Southannan Sands SSSI very gently – which in turn makes the perfect environment for protected species to grow including:

  1. Seagrass– we have the rarest protected form here, called Eel Grass and it is the only remaining Seagrass Meadow on the Firth of Clyde
  2. Shellfish – We have some very rare and protected shellfish here. Because of this the waters are also designated as Protected Shellfish Waters (PSW).

Both the seagrass and shellfish anchor to the seabed, trapping the intertidal sediments. This makes a perfect habitat for breeding fish and  provide a safe fish nursery. The baby fish provide food for the birds, which is why the area is visited by a huge range of birds including rare migratory birds, and is of interest to bird charities. Having a safe nursery for fish is also fundamental for larger marine life such as the seals, porpoise, dolphins and even killer whales we enjoy in the Clyde. We have our own world famous dolphin ‘Kylie’ who lives close to Hunterston and researchers have found she speaks porpoise!

We are in a Climate Emergency. Seagrass is one of the best carbon captures and Southannan Sands SSSI is a very rare Natural Blue Carbon Sink, which is 30-40 times more effective than the rainforest. There are charities and researchers dedicated to saving and growing seagrass, because of its fundamental importance and the fact that it is at massive threat from irresponsible developersacross the world.

Peel Ports have been working on plans to bring decommissioning of oilrigs and other marine vessels to Hunterston – slap bang in the middle of the SSSI since 2012.

It is an extremely complex planning decisionas there are so many government bodies involved and has the potential to negatively impact on the health and safety of residents, road traffic, heavy goods transport, marine life, fishing industry, leisure and the natural environmentas well as the future of our protected SSSI.

In a project as complex as this it is necessary to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)to understand the wider and cumulative effects of the development and what risks they pose.

In 2018, North Ayrshire Council (NAC) approved the land-based planning permissions without calling for an EIA, despite advice provided by other government regulators. We had a QC examine the process NAC undertook and he was highly critical.

In July 2019, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) granted a Waste Management Licence to Peel for the decommissioning, which allows them to handle 1,000’s tonnes of very dangerous materials such as asbestos, PCB’s (which make holes in the ozone layer), rotting organic marine matter and radioactive waste. We have lobbied hard against this licence as Peel have applied for a blank cheque to handle anything and everything, and we’ve witnessed their appalling attitude to health, safety and the environment over the years, so we have little confidence.

In order to bring in the oilrigs, the area needs to be dredged to create a deep marine channel. The dredging will have significant environmental effects. In recent years the Largs Yacht Haven silted up and needed to be dredged. It is not a protected area, yet it required an EIA before the works began! The marine environment is dynamic and one change can have significant knock-on effects.

Dredging has a number of known knock-on effects:

  • The dynamics of the tidal energy are changed. The shellfish and seagrass only survive in low energy tidal environments; this risks destroying the seagrass meadow.
  • Digging up such a large amount of the seashore releases toxins trapped in the sand (including a lot of coal dust from the badly managed coal yard) as well as churning up the seabed. These toxins are then free to move through the waters and release the carbon stored in them.
  • Both Seagrass and Shellfish are sensitive to suffocation from this activity.

In addition, the water treatment works that will manage the large amounts of water used to clean and decontaminate the scrap from the site will pump the wastewater back into the waters of SSSI.

  • Without an EIA there be no assessment of the impact of this on the SSSI and the extremely sensitive active shellfish site that needs clean waters to survive.
  • Without an EIA there will no assessment of the negative cumulative effects on the Protected Shellfish Waters and nearby bathing beaches of combining the oilrig project with the additional proposals for fish farms by Great & Wee Cumbrae.

Peel Ports have used the number of licences and regulators to their advantage and over time have slowly extended the scope of the project. This is a well know strategy called ‘salami slicing’. When the land based planning was approved Peel had stated 200,000m3 of the seabed would be dredged. They then applied to Marine Scotland for removal of  2.4million m3!! And when that caused uproar they reduced their application to 615,000m3 which is still massive.

In addition they have changed their application to build a larger dock. Over the licenses we have witnessed crazy requests, major inaccuracies and false statements, with new changes creeping in constantly… that would give Peel free reign to operate as they want.

We know from the experience of communities in the North West of England that this is how large scale controversial Peel projects are implemented without full environmental scrutiny and at the expense of the communities and environment that live with the impacts for generations.

Last week Scottish Natural Heritage declared the SSSI at Menie Dunes in Aberdeenshire DESTROYED by irreparable damage caused by the Trump International Golf Course. Another irresponsible billionaire that lives off shore and promised jobs in place of the environment that never transpired.

We CANNOT let this happen to Southannan Sands SSSI.

This project involves the dismantling of huge quantities of dangerous materials in the marine environment, massive dredging, pile driving, huge increase in HGV road transport, massive quantities of polluted waste water, serious noise impact to residents and marine life, impact on tourism, fishing, leisure.

It should not go ahead without and Environmental Impact Assessment.

Marine Scotland are currently deciding if this is necessary and we need your help!!

THIS IS URGENT and we need you to send a post card and / or write to them in the next week:



#SaveSouthannanSands Needs Your Support Now! Send a letter to Marine Scotland today to tell them “SAY NO WAY WITHOUT AN EIA”

We are calling on everyone concerned about protection of the environment to email Marine Scotland NOW to tell them “NO WAY WITHOUT AN EIA!”

Marine Scotland (MS) have been asked by Peel Ports to provide an
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Screening Opinion of their
plans to undertake marine dredging and construction work at
Hunterston. The site is in the immediate vicinity of Southannan Sands
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which a rare seagrass
meadow, natural carbon sink and home to a number of OSPAR protected
species. You can read the letter we have written to Marine Scotland this week calling for an EIA by clicking here>>>


An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a tool used to assess the
significant effects of a project or development proposal on the
environment. EIAs make sure that project decision makers think about
the likely effects on the environment at the earliest possible time
and aim to avoid, reduce or offset those effects. This ensures that
proposals are understood properly before decisions are made.

The ‘Screening Opinion’ is the first stage of the EIA process which
decides if an EIA is required. You can find out more by clicking to
the website here >>>

HOW CAN YOU HELP?  We need as many supporters to reach out to Marine Scotland and tell them NO WAY WITHOUT AN EIA!

Email  / with the following message:

Dear Marine Scotland,

Both the Scottish Government & North Ayrshire Council have declared a climate emergency. The Southannan Sands SSSI is a protected zone because of its fundamental role in sustaining the environment and protecting the planet. From being a marine nursery to a carbon sink and home to a number of highly protected species. 

The Peel Ports application at Hunterston now poses a major threat to the environment. 

Mistakes have been made in the past as highlighted by the Friends of the Firth of Clyde QC. Even the Scottish Government has indicated the previous EIA Screeing was ineffective and could invite legal challenge. 

The plans have changed for an even more destructive project and we demand an EIA is undertaken. 

The SSSI at Menie has been destroyed by irresponsible developers, we must not allow this to keep happening! 

I support the Friends of the Firth of Clyde to #SaveSouthannanSands 

Yours Faithfully,  XXXXX

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Saturday 27th July 2019

“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

Outrage At Freedom Of Information Request Revelation That Peel Ports Intended To Dredge 2,400,000m3 Of Sand Adjacent To Southannan Sands SSSI

The Friends of the Firth of Clyde (FOFOC) are OUTRAGED to discover that Peel Ports submitted a marine license applicationto Marine Scotland (MS) to dredge from the area of Southannan Sands Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) that included dredging TWELVE TIMES the volume of sand that was declared by them in the Public Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) Event on 8th August 2018.

We thought there was nothing left to SHOCK us about the lengths to which Peel Ports will go to push their plans through the planning and licensing system without an Environmental Impact Assessment,  but  we were wrong having been HORRIFIED to learn this week through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Scottish Government that Peel Ports submitted plans to MS in October 2018 to…

… dredge 2,400,000m3 of sand from the area adjoining  the SSSI, NOT  the previously advised 200,000m3 … this is TWELVE TIMES the volume of sand outlined in the plans presented to the public during the consultation process …

… This is equivalent to the volume of a tennis court 6miles high …

… This vast amount of dredging will do unknown damage to the Southannan Sands SSSI…

The FOI also reveals:

  • £10million of grant funding was awarded by Scottish Enterprise (SE) to Peel Ports for the decommissioning site in October 2018 despite MS knowing that the marine licence application contained serious deficiencies, which would lead to it being rejected. FOFOC Question: What due diligence was undertaken by SE before they granted £10million of public funding?
  • Marine Scotland met with Peel Ports on 23rd November 2018 to discuss the significant differences between work now being proposed and that which had been included in the original environmental screening which ruled out an EIA. This resulted in Peel Ports withdrawing their application pending a new application. FOFOC Question: Why was this new dredging figure not enough the trigger an EIA & why was this information not made available to MSP Ross Greer when he submitted questions to the Scottish Govt?
  • On the issue of ‘salami slicing’ NAC is known to have recommended to Peel Ports the approach of splitting the planning application for oil rig decommissioning in to three separate parts. FOFOC Question: Who made this decision and why?
  • The Scottish government received four requests for review of the screening opinion around August 2018. FOFOC Question: why did it take until 19th February 2019 – ie: the day before the FOFOC public meeting in Largs for the complainants to be notified of the decision to uphold NAC’s decision not to require an EIA? 
  • The Scottish Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning
    was advised that the environmental review, undertaken by Envirocentre on behalf of Peel Ports, did not include Hunterston Port (ie the 400m Coal Jetty) as it was not part of the Hunterston proposals. If it had included the Port an EIA would have been required. However we know that Hunterston Port IS integral to Peel Ports’ proposals and this was known at the time – it’s use for ‘asset preparation’ was included in the WML application to SEPA (also submitted in October 2018) and featured front and centre in the infamous CessComDecom marketing video. Additionally, at the recent 20 year Master Plan public exhibition a number of residents were told by Peel Ports representatives that as the Harbour Authority they “can do what they want at the port”, including the storage of oil rigs awaiting decommissioning. FOFOC Question: why would this information not be included in the report for the minister?
  • The Scottish Government know there is significant public interest in the developments at Hunterston and they are aware of our Crowd Funding  to fund a legal challenge should it be needed. FOFOC Question: how can the authorities know so much about our activities whilst at the same time we know so little about theirs?
  • The Scottish Government have effectively side-stepped scrutiny of the original decision not to require an EIA and have handed responsibility to Marine Scotland for managing what is clearly the thorny issue of an EIA . Question: FOFOC Why are the Scottish Government and North Ayrshire Council so reluctant to require an EIA for the development of Hunterston. Surely it makes good sense to apply the precautionary principle?
  • The advice on which the Scottish Govt decision to support NAC’s original screening decision was based refers to the likelihood of legal action being taken by Peel Ports if the original decision was not upheld, and by community bodies if it was. FOFOC Question: Were Peel Ports regarded as a bigger “threat” in this regard and was this the overriding factor in the Scottish Government making the decision to uphold the original screening decision?

Read the FOI in full here:

NB: hover cursor over the bottom of the document to reveal click for next pages

EIR Request - Hunterston - Response letter - David Telford - Final_Redacted-2


So, what is our current understanding of the Marine License position?

  • Having rejected Peel Ports’ marine licence application, which was based on 2,400,000m3of dredged material, MS required new plans, along with a new EIA Screening request,to be submitted by Peel Ports (source of information – Scottish Government response to FOI requests)
  • A new EIA screening request with supporting plans and information has been submitted. These appear to indicate that the volume of dredged material now anticipated is 615,000m3 (still THREE TIMES greater than originally stated), whichwill be “produced as a result of dredging the approaches to the hammerhead quay (estimated 423,000m3) as well as the new caisson gates (estimated 192,000m3 tonnes)” (source of information – Marine Scotland website)
  • In the absence of any further publically available information we can only surmise that Marine Scotland are still considering the new screening request and are therefore still deciding whether to require Peel Ports to undertake an EIA.

What are we doing next?

We have written to Marine Scotland asking them to confirm that our understanding of the current position as stated above is correct and to let us know when they expect to issue their screening opinion.

Thursday 11th July 2019