Glasgow & West Scotland

Councillors reject Hunterston coal power station plans

Controversial proposals for a new coal-fired power station at Hunterston have been rejected by the local council.

The decision has been welcomed by environmental campaigners who are now calling on the scheme's backers, Ayrshire Power, to abandon the plans.

The firm has insisted it will fight on. More than 20,000 objections had been lodged with North Ayrshire Council.

There will now be a public inquiry before a final decision is made by the Scottish government.

Ayrshire Power, which is owned by Peel Energy, wants to build a plant with experimental carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at the site.

Public feeling

It has argued the coal-fired power station would represent a major economic opportunity for Scotland and would help fill a predicted shortfall in the UK's generating capacity.

The company plans to use CCS technology to minimise the station's greenhouse gas emissions and said it would be easier to develop this technology at a brand new facility.

Councillors in North Ayrshire agreed to formally object to the proposals on the basis that the new facility was contrary to various local and national planning policies.

Council leader, David O'Neill, said the region was in urgent need of new jobs but "not at any cost".

He added: "We have the highest unemployment rate in Scotland and appreciate that a new power station at Hunterston would create new jobs. However, we cannot ignore the adverse impact this development could have on the area.

"Councillors recognised the strength of public feeling on the plans and expressed concern that the facility would not capture 100% of carbon emissions from day one.

"They also highlighted the lack of sufficient information on the impact on human health and the effects the development would have on the local environment."

Hunterston Power Station in Largs
The proposed facility would replace the existing power station at Hunterston

Ayrshire Power said it was disappointed at the council's decision but remained "determined" to progress the application through the planning process.

Mike Claydon, from the company, said: "The Ayrshire Power project represents a significant economic opportunity for Scotland and, in particular, for North Ayrshire, and would attract in excess of £3bn of investment, delivering hundreds of new jobs for the region and a range of other economic benefits.

"The successful development of carbon capture and storage technology at Hunterston would enable Scotland to lead the world in the deployment of this essential capability and to secure the economic benefits that would result from it."

He added: "We remain 100% committed to delivering this project and we believe it is essential to ensuring the security of Scotland's future energy supply."

Campaigners have said the proposals make a mockery of Scotland's climate change targets and have raised concerns that a new power station would damage local wildlife and have an adverse impact on public health.

A coalition of environment, social justice and faith groups opposed to the development welcomed the council's decision.

Aedán Smith from RSPB Scotland said he hoped the company behind the plans would now drop the proposal.

He added: "If they don't, we're prepared to keep fighting them right through a public inquiry until the plans are rejected."

Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland said: "It's great news that the voices of the 21,000 people who objected to this climate-wrecking proposal have been heard by councillors. This was the wrong scheme in the wrong place.

"If the company have any sense they will cut their losses and walk away from this proposal, rather than fight a bitter, lengthy and expensive public inquiry over Scotland's most unpopular planning application."

Stan Blackley from Friends of the Earth Scotland added: "This vote should serve as another nail in the coffin for Peel's disastrous development.

"It's time to move away from burning fossil fuels, and it's time the people of North Ayrshire stopped having unwanted polluting industry dumped on their doorstep."

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