Scottish Natural Heritage advised it would be sensible to require an Environmental Impact Assessment of Peel Ports plans for oil rig decommissioning at Hunterston PARC before planning permission was granted

You will no doubt have seen the publicity that has spawned the Save Loch Lomond Campaign which is objecting to proposals to develop a Flamingo Land style holiday resort named ‘Lomond Banks’ on the shores of Loch Lomond.

Meantime, just 3o miles south west on the less well-known but equally beautiful shores of Fairlie on the North Ayrshire Coast, the Friends of the Firth of Clyde (FoFoC)  are battling to preserve the environmental treasure that is the precious Southannan Sands Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which is an increasingly rare eel grass meadow that provides vital nursery habitat for juvenile fish and  a number of OSPAR protected marine life, from being irreparably damaged by Peel Ports plans to dredge hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sand from the area to develop  Hunterston PARC for oil rig decommissioning.

In January 2019 we received a reply to a request for information to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) under the  Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (‘the  EIRs’).

We asked the following questions of SNH:

  • What  discussions have Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) had to date with North Ayrshire Council (NAC)  regarding the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for this project?
  • What advice was  given to NAC by SNH?
  • Where the discussions documented?
  • What was the outcome?

The written response we received was unequivocal in indicating that SNH  advised an EIA was required, and states that:

“We (SNH) attended the screening meeting at the Hunterston site on  
23 January 2017. At the meeting we expressed the opinion that due  
to the scale, the introduction of new processes and complex nature  
of the entire project, that it would be sensible to request the  
production of an EIA. The structure of any EIA could be scoped to  
narrow down the range of environmental factors and impacts being  
considered. At the conclusion of the meeting the Council indicated  
that they would consider the change of use application for the yard  
without an EIA of the entire project. This meeting was not minuted,  
and North Ayrshire Council decided that an EIA would not be  
required.”

This shocking information begs a number of questions:

  • Why was this screening meeting between public bodies to inform such an important planning decision not minuted?
  • What is the rationale underpinning  “The short answer is of course not”, to Independant Counsellor Ian Murdoch when he asked a direct question at the NAC Council meeting on 27th March 2019 (Q5, 1:22:43) about whether  all meetings between NAC officers  and outside organisations should be minuted ?
  • What was the reasoning behind  NAC deciding not to take the advice from SNH that “it would be ‘sensible” to request an EIA be undertaken before planning permission was granted?
  • How will Marine Scotland rectify the situation when they consider Peel Ports long awaited Marine Licence application that has remained in the pre-application stage since August 2018?

…. and last, but by no means least ….

How do we get the same scale of publicity and support for protection of  the quietly beautiful Southannan Sands SSSI as there is for its celebrity neighbour Loch Lomond? 

 

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