CONCERNS about the lack of an environmental impact assessment into the Hunterston decommissioning site were aired at a fiery public meeting.

The event lasted for over two and a half hours with around 400 people in attendance at Largs Academy on Thursday.

There were jeers from the crowd when NAC assistant chief executive Karen Yeomans said it was the council's belief that this form of decommissioning industry and tourism could go 'hand-in-hand' on the Clyde.

Presenting their case, the Friends of the Firth of Clyde campaign showed CessCom Decom's video of their plans for decommissioning oil rigs at the site.

Council planning chief Jim Millar said that the Scottish Government and all regulatory bodies had found in favour of the council's position, with Marine Scotland's verdict in the pipeline.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency's David Ogilvie told the audience that they would not 'get in the way of commercial development' as long as it doesn't pose a risk to the environment.

He said that that they had been dealing directly with Peel Ports, and that their review of their application for a waste management licence had been extended until the end of March.

Peel Ports, who had been invited to the meeting, did not attend, with campaigners saying has been was a lack of transparency from the firm.

Community councillor Drew Cochrane said: "SEPA have been incredibly helpful, NAC have been helpful, Marine Scotland have not validated the application and would probably mandate for an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

"The likes of the neighbouring Hunterston nuclear power station is scrutinised to the moon and back. I don't see how things have stacked up in favour of the developer, as is being suggested at this meeting."

David Nairn, of the Clyde Marine Mammal Group, replied: "Dredging of a site of scientific special interest site has a significant environmental impact.

"In NAC's very own policy, any change to the structures around Hunterston, which developing a quay and putting in rock armour is, is actually against policy.

"These things dictate it should have been a full assessment."

Mr Nairn also voiced fears about potential flood risk to Allanton Park Terrace to Gogo Burn area as a result of the removal of sediment during the shoreline management.

One audience member asked: "With talk of enhanced marine tourism in Largs and Millport, and the council are going to contribute, is this not at odds with a big industrial site on our doorstep?". The reply from Karen Yeomans, executive director of NAC Economy, sparked an angry response from the audience.

She said: "Tourism has been an important component, our marina area is very important, and we are very hopefully that as part of our negotiations we have secured investment.

"We believe both projects can sit comfortably together."

Another issue raised was the number of jobs the development could bring to the area.

Peel's estimate that the figure will be between 250-500 posts was described as 'well off the mark' by the local campaign group, who used examples of similar sites which only attracted double figures.

Labour councillor Alex Gallagher told the audience he believed a satisfactory balance had been struck, while independent councillor Ian Murdoch said he had strong concerns regarding why an EIA had not been granted.

After the meeting, Labour councillor Alex Gallagher said: "The Friends group are against any development at the Hunterston site. Any other proposition put before them, they will oppose.

"It was very disappointing that having got notification from the Scottish Government that there was no need for an EIA, the Friends of the Firth of Clyde did not change their presentation to reflect that, despite every single professional organisation saying an EIA is not necessary for the site."

Caroline Briggs of the campaigners hit back, saying: "At the beginning of presentation we made it very clear that our objective is to support sustainable enhancement and we very much recognise job development and creation is important in Ayrshire.

"In fact, members have created many alternative uses and put these to Clydeport and the council, with no uptake."

The Firth of Clyde campaign have also obtained report form a QC's with expertise in waste management projects to back up their claims.