PLANS to unlock the 'vast potential' of Hunterston port could see house prices increase as a result of a potential jobs boom, it was claimed this week.
Peel Ports bosses made the bold prediction as the company launched its new 20 year masterplan to regenerate the site which has been out of commission since the coal industry collapse.
They say the ambitious proposals could 'support more than 1,700 jobs' and add more than £140 million in economic value to Scotland.
In a rare opportunity, the company are calling on residents and businesses to share their opinions about potential uses of the site during a six-week consultation.
Andrew Hemphill, port director at Peel Ports, pictured, said: "We are totally committed the port - it has been here for 40 years and it will be here for another 40.
"Property prices could go up. We are looking to attract highly paid jobs to the area - why commute from Glasgow and the central belt when you can stay here?".
Proposals include a liquid natural gas terminal, a combined cycle gas turbine power station and plastics recycling and storage.
Creating a cruise liner stop has been ruled out due to the height of the jetty. 
Mr Hemphill added: "We have identified eight different sectors in the masterplan - but there could be more identified by the local community."
However local environmental groups have expressed their disappointment at the type of industries earmarked for the 300 acre site and believe they could harm the local environment and tourism.
David Nairn, of the Friends of the Firth of Clyde, said: "It is more of a disaster plan than a masterplan. We have a lot of sensitive species in the area and we have a resident dolphin in off Fairlie. We are really concerned about all the impacts that could be posed by the selection of industries."
But Mr Hemphill said: ""We are trying to identify uses for the sites which get material in or out so that why manufacturing here - import raw materials and export them again and having the port means it cuts down on transportation in terms of road haulage.
"We can't change the past but we can help shape the future for this area.
"We have been here for 40 years and we have been co-habited with a lagoon and bird sanctuary beside us, as well as oyster beds nearby.
"It is not in anyone's interest to do any harm to the environment - it is not good for customers we are dealing with, the locals or for business.
"We want to draw a line under what has happened in the past - and look to the future."
The plans have been given a mixed reception by the area's politicians.
Kenneth Gibson, MSP for Cunninghame North, said: "Our young people need opportunities for high-quality, skilled jobs and I am determined to see those brought to Hunterston.
"It is a prime site for investment in infrastructure and attracting new companies."
Cllr Tom Marshall commented: “The potential for the site is huge providing almost 2,000 jobs and is a very welcome development. We have emphasised to Peel Ports that the development must be done sensitively, must not impact the environment and must be undertaken in full consultation with the local community.”
Cllr. Alex Gallagher, chair of the economy portfolio in North Ayrshire, said: "The key thing is that Peel Port are talking with us and have produced a masterplan.
"We welcome the co-operation with Peel Ports and the possibility of 1700 jobs.
"Any development that will be proposed is subject to the same consultations and planning regime that ensures jobs are not at the cost of the local environment."
Independent councillor Ian Murdoch said: "I thought we were going to get a centre of excellence for renewable energy, I was quite shocked to see a gas power station appearing.
"I am disappointed that none of the consultation events are taking place in Largs or West Kilbride. I have asked that they are included."
* The public consultation takes place at Fairlie Village Hall from 4-6 June, and Garrison House on 6 June.

Peel Ports will hold a Public Consultation on the future of Hunterston PARC in Fairlie Village Hall on Tuesday, 4th June from 2pm to 7pm, Wednesday, 5th June from 10am to 4pm and Thursday, 6th June from 10am to 2pm.

It will also take place at the Garrison on Thursday from 10am till 2pm.