Glasgow & West Scotland

Legal challenge fails over Hunterston coal power plan

Hunterston Power Station in Largs
Image caption The proposed facility is included in the National Planning Framework

Environmental groups have lost a legal challenge against plans for a £3bn coal-fired power station in Ayrshire.

A judicial review challenged a decision by the Scottish government to include the planned facility at Hunterston in the National Planning Framework.

This meant campaigners could not challenge the need for the plant - only matters such as the site and design.

A judge ruled that a consultation process undertaken by the Scottish government had been sufficient.

The proposals, by Ayrshire Power, which is owned by Peel Energy Ltd, are for a site between the existing Clydeport coal handling facility at the Hunterston Terminal and the Hunterston B nuclear power plant.

The firm proposes using experimental carbon capture and storage (CCS) to limit damaging carbon emissions.

These would be captured, turned into liquid and stored underground on site, if that technology can be proven.

Jobs claim

The energy company also claims the new power station would generate a "significant" number of jobs in the area, with up to 1,600 people being employed during construction and another 160 in permanent jobs when the power station is running.

Campaigners claimed the plant would harm wildlife and the environment and said thousands of people were opposed to it.

The judicial review was raised after the Scottish government decided to include the planned facility as a National Development in the National Planning Framework.

Campaigners said this was denying them a voice and effectively making it more difficult for Ayrshire Power's application to be denied at a later stage.

Marco McGinty from Saltcoats, who lives near where the coal plant would be built, mounted a legal challenge with the help of RSPB, WWF and Friends of the Earth.

The appeal was rejected on Tuesday after the judicial review ruled that a consultation process undertaken by the Scottish government had been sufficient.

Coalition 'disappointed'

Mr McGinty said: "I am deeply disappointed in this ruling, which has failed to overturn the manifestly unfair planning and legal processes that led to Hunterston being declared a national development.

"This is a sad reflection on Scotland and the Scottish planning and legal systems.

"It would appear that the value of the natural environment, as well as the principles of fairness, openness and democracy are set to one side when wealthy developers like Peel are involved."

A coalition of environmental groups - including WWF, RSPB Scotland, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust - which is opposed to the scheme, also criticised the ruling.

"The coalition is very disappointed in this decision," the group said.

"It is hard to understand how the Scottish courts could conclude that an individual who lives close to, and makes regular use of, a nationally important wildlife site that would be destroyed by a development has no right to challenge the decision that there is a need for the project."

'Under consideration'

The group said that ministers had included the Hunterston proposals in the National Planning Framework, "as they considered at the time that there was a national need for new baseload electricity generation".

It added: "They have since indicated that expansion of renewable energy means this is no longer the case.

"However, national development status for a development means that the need for it can not be considered at the application stage."

A spokesman for Ayrshire Power said: "We note the court's decision and our focus remains on progressing our application for Hunterston throughout the planning process."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We welcome Lord Brailsford's judgement and his view that the Scottish government complied with both the detailed requirements and the ethos of Strategic Environmental Assessment legislation.

"The application for a new power station at Hunterston is under consideration.

"Ministers will take account of consultation responses and await the view of North Ayrshire Council, a statutory consultee, before taking a decision."

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