Glasgow & West Scotland

Hunterston port 'masterplan' revealed promising £140m boost

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Media captionPeel Ports believes the site can have a future in decommissioning. Video courtesy Peel Ports

A "masterplan" for the Hunterston industrial complex in North Ayrshire has been revealed by its owners.

Peel Ports claims the transformation of the former coal-handling port will support more than 1,700 jobs and add £140m to Scotland's economy.

It has launched a public consultation on creating a new industrial centre on the site.

But local campaigners say heavy industry will affect tourism and the environment.

The Hunterston Port and Resource Centre (Parc) site comprises a 300-acre brownfield footprint, deepwater dock, and rail connections.

Potential uses suggested for the site include;

  • a liquid natural gas terminal
  • combined cycle gas turbine power station
  • a train manufacturing plant
  • facilities for marine construction and decommissioning
  • and a location for plastics recycling and storage.

The terminal was established on the Firth of Clyde in the mid-1970s, first servicing Scotland's steel industry and later importing coal for power stations but closed in 2016 with the loss of 120 jobs.

Peel, which acquired it along with many other assets on the Clyde coast when it bought Clydeport in 2003, sees a future for it in oil and gas structure decommissioning and as a renewables hub.

After revealing its plans, it has invited North Ayrshire residents and businesses to share their opinions about potential uses of the site in a six-week consultation.

History of Hunterston Terminal

Image copyright Peel Ports
  • Construction began in 1974 to provide a terminal for the import of iron ore - raw materials for British Steel's plant at Ravenscraig, 40 miles away but linked by rail. Its huge jetty was able to handle increasingly large vessels that were unable to navigate the Clyde
  • The marine yard was used to build oil platforms, a dry dock for Trident submarines and a huge "gravity base tank" for the oil industry
  • With the decline of Scotland's steel industry, the port was used for importing coal for the Longannet power station in Fife and the Drax power station in North Yorkshire. At its peak in 2005, it handled more than 10m tonnes of coal
  • The closure of Longannet and Drax's increasing conversion to biomass fuel have forced the terminal's owners Peel to seek new roles. Since 2016 the site has lain dormant

Andrew Hemphill, port director at Peel Ports Clydeport said: "No other single site in the UK offers Hunterston's unrivalled combination of deep-water, extensive land area and transport links.

"This historic industrial site has the potential to transform Scotland's prospects in a variety of key economic sectors, providing jobs, skills development, import and export opportunities for decades to come.

"The intended benefits that we have set out can only be achieved with the input of the local community, public sector agencies and commercial partners. That will help us to create a final version that reflects the shared ambitions of the people who live, work and invest in North Ayrshire."

'Innovative industries'

Kenneth Gibson, MSP for Cunninghame North, added: "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 that will provide such roles.

"Developing the site is also a once-in-a-generation chance for the region to lead the way with innovative and sustainable industries, potentially in the circular economy or renewable energy.

"One thing is for sure is that we must create a new future for employment in the region otherwise we will continue to see a drain of talent to Glasgow and beyond. I urge everyone with an interest in the health of North Ayrshire to read the masterplan and get involved in the debate."

However, local campaigners are against any industry that may harm the environment.

Image copyright Peel Ports
Image caption The Hunterston site covers 300 acres
Image copyright Peel Ports
Image caption Local campaigners claim the land is contaminated from previous industries

Caroline de Jong from Friends of the Firth of Clyde says they welcome any jobs to the area and any changes from an environmentally-friendly business.

She told the BBC news website: "We would like any development to take into account the full impact of the economic development, the social impact and the environmental impact and previous proposals by Peel Ports have failed to address the environmental and social impact.

"This project is of enormous proportion with high degrees of complexity and the coastline around this area is particularly sensitive.

"It is designated a protected SSSI site (Scientific Special Interest), due to its protected marine species."

Planning permission was granted by North Ayrshire Council in 2018 for the decommissioning of oil rigs at Hunterston.

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