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.

A deliberate breach of the EIA Directive by North Ayrshire Council

Fairlie Coastal believe that the irrational approach the Developers and Planning Authorities have and continue to take in relation to the scoping, screening, planning and consenting processes constitutes an ongoing and manifest breach of the EIA Directive. This approach is contrary to the stern commitment from Government to uphold and correctly transpose European Law. This strategy is already having a significant environmental impact, fragmenting and polluting the nationally protected SSSI while threatening OSPAR listed habitats and European Protected Species. Public Bodies and Planning Officers are failing their legislative duty to further the conservation of biodiversity through institutional failure to properly affect the environmental screening procdures. This is being exacerbated by pursuing a paper chased mitigation strategy which is being used purposively as a surrogate and to circumvent the EIA Directive and transposed legislation. 

(1) There has been a failure to apply ‘Wide Scope and Broad Purpose’ when considering Schedule 1 Paragraph 8(b) EIA Directive project descriptions.

(2) There has been additional failure to apply Schedule 2 EIA project descriptions.

(3) The planning procedure has been purposively subdivided (salami-sliced) to avoid application of the EIA Directive. This restrictive process using delegated powers further deprive the community the opportunity to challenge decisions.

(4) Demolition works must be considered under EIA Directive and recent paper-chased and catch up screening procedures have been used to breach the purpose of the EIA Directive with planners making it up as they go along.

(5) The developer and all authorities (NAC, SNH, SEPA, MS) have failed to fully identify the scale of environmental impacts during the EIA scoping and screening process.

(6) The desk-top environmental appraisal process and inadequate site visits have failed to identify OSPAR listed Priority Marine Features that are currently impacted by developers pollution and under significant environmental risk from further development.

(7) The ‘negative’ screening opinion is contrary to the SNH Site Management Plan that acknowledges the risk of significant environmental impact from further coastal development.

(8) Mitigation proposal during screening procedures were used to frustrate the purpose of the EIA, and serve as surrogate for it. It is contrary to directive to start from premise that although there may be significant impacts, that these can be reduced to insignificance by the application of various conditions.

(9) The SSSI is misrepresented in the CMPP Clyde Assessment and within the marine spatial planning framework. The site is at risk of further fragmentation and being de-notified as the Clyde Marine Plan progresses despite community efforts to highlight issues.

(10) Statutory Consultees CMPP were not informed of screening / planning / license procedures by fellow board member. This avoided environmental scrutiny and prevented CMPP of performing their Statutory function to screen for marine related EIA. This is contrary to ecosystems approach, the ethos that underpins Clyde 2020 Vision and contrary to the function of the marine planning that Ministerial Direction CMPP was granted to effect.

(11) Peelports have exerted an overt influence over the terrestrial and marine planning procedure. This conflict of interest extends to membership of CMPP and relations to Clyde Harbour Authority.

(12) The SNH screening opinion was made without site examination, realisation of environmental impacts, knowledge of marine ecosystems, and relied on the developer’s desk-top environmental appraisal. SNH’s failure to attend to environmental concerns, during the local authorities subjugated planning process, has led to an increase in environmental risk.

(13) There has been manifest and material changes in the development proposal and environmental appraisal since original screening opinion and must be re-considered under Schedule 2 Paragraph 13 (a/b) EIA.

(14) The subjection of Terrestrial and Marine Planning legislation has exacerbated the negative planning issues in developments concerning Integrated Coast Zone Management. Procedural idiosyncrasies between Terrestrial and Marine Planning are being exploited by developers and local authority to circumvent the EIA Directive.

(15) The Petroleum Act EIA legislation is being incorrectly offered by NAC local authority and planning committee as a surrogate for a mandatory Schedule 1 EIA that would otherwise examine decommissioning, construction and operations at the Hunterston decommissioning port

(16) There has been a lack of openness and transparency during whole Hunterston Project process. This has frustrated the communities ability to adequately challenge aspects of planning process and leading to possible time barr on review or ministerial appeal.

18/00134/PP – Existing Site Plan and Photographs

18/00134/PP: Planning Application for the  Replacement and Enlargement of existing jetty  at the Hunterston Construction Yard.


18/00134/PP – Detailed Block Plan and Elevations

18/00134/PP: Planning Application for the  Replacement and Enlargement of existing jetty  at the Hunterston Construction Yard


18/00134/PP – Coastal Assessment

18/00134/PP: Planning Application for the  Replacement and Enlargement of existing jetty  at the Hunterston Construction Yard

Download document here