The local community were concerned by the possible environmental and landscape impact when the plans for the nuclear power stations were announced for Hunterston. However, after extensive public consultation and sensitive planning the plans went through “in the nation’s interest”. With good plant management, the impact has been kept to a minimum.
We were again concerned when more public funds were used to build the jetty for importing iron ore and for the associated industrial stockyard to be managed by British Steel on our magnificent foreshore, the 255 acre Southannan Sands designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. This was followed by further infilling for the Marine Construction Yard on the foreshore. The visual intrusion, noise, dust and traffic from these activities did impact severely on the landscape, the environment of our village community and the shore wildlife. Building these sites was again deemed “essential in the best interests of our nation” and we were told that it would ensure the long term future of steelmaking in Scotland!
When the steel industry collapsed, we were further concerned when the management of our facility was transferred first to Clydeport and thereafter to Peelports for importing coal dust. Noise and dust seriously impacted on the community and on the SSSI site. This time we were assured that it was “essential in the best interests of our nation” and that it would ensure the long term future of coal fired power generation in Scotland!
Now that coal industry has collapsed, we are astonished to be told that, despite the Government’s massive investments in the leisure, recreation and tourism function of the area - in the Field Station and National Watersports Training Centre on Cumbrae and in the now world class Inverclyde National Sports Training Centre, showcase new Largs School Campus and all the leisure and tourism infrastructure which attracts millions to our coast each year – without community consultation, our government and council officers propose to invest substantial further public finance for the redevelopment of our sites but this time rather than to become Scotland’s showcase green energy and integrated enterprise park in this magnificent location, for the Hunterston site to become an international scrapyard importing large marine structures and other wastestreams. In this scenario the profits generated from our site will no longer go to boost the local economy but instead generate big dividends for the offshore interests who will direct the exploitation of this local asset!
The irreversible negative impact this notoriously polluting activity will have on our landscape, environment, community, tourism and wildlife is deeply concerning. The visual impact of such massive structures will dominate this scenic area day and night. The noise, gaseous and liquid emissions will cause pollution which will greatly affect the people living in the area and disrupt the entire ecosystem, especially the marine mammals, seals, dolphins and porpoises which live just off the site. However, once the Feasability Studies of the alternative site options to evaluate the economic and local employment considerations of each and once the compulsory objective Environmental Impact Assessment [required under Section12 of the Guidance Notes of the Petroleum Act 1998], which Cllr Hill referred to, are available, only then can the meaningful discussion begin as the best use of further public funding in the site. The statement that the permission for the new jetty could be allowed without taking full cognisance of its intended function is clearly irresponsible.
A recent but very real additional threat to all of this is the current and ever growing trend to decide planning matters, even such major marine work, under ‘delegated powers’. This undemocratic system was originally designed to avoid clogging up the NAC planning meetings with applications for domestic house extensions, greenhouses and garden sheds. It has resulted now in civil servants, many of whom do not even live in this area, taking unchallenged, and often unlearned, decisions of critical importance and who will simply move on elsewhere when these decisions ultimately become environmental disasters. Here is a classic example of this. Under delegated powers, the officers decided to allow for the amendment of the local development plan, to permit decommissioning of oil rigs at Hunterston, without even insisting that the proposed developer submit an Environmental Impact Statement!
Cllr Hill’s call for the statutory objective Environmental Impact Assessment to be submitted before there can be any meaningful consideration of the Permission Application must be observed.

Ronald Gilchrist,BSc,MSc,MIBiol,ACIWM, FLS