On 26 June 2012 Peel Energy announced that it is to withdraw its application for the proposed coal-fired power station at Hunterston.
This is excellent news and the result of a hard-fought campaign by RSPB Scotland alongside a coalition of organisations under the banner of the Say No To Hunterston Campaign. Since it was first mooted in 2008, the development has become one of the most unpopular applications in Scottish planning history, with over 20,000 people objecting to the plans.
Although this proposal has been withdrawn there is still the need to ensure that the Portencross Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which was put at risk by the Hunterston proposal, is properly protected and not put at risk from other damaging developments in the future.
In November 2008, Peel Energy and Danish power company DONG Energy announced plans for a 1,852 MW coal-fired power station on a 95-hectare (236 acre) site at Hunterston. The proposed power station would be coal-fired with up to 15% biomass.
The proposal was since included in the final National Planning Framework 2 (NPF2) as one of 14 'national developments', which are large-scale infrastructure projects deemed to be in the national interest.
Although planning permission (and other permissions as necessary) are still required, the 'need' for a national development cannot be challenged. This is being contested through a Judicial Review taken forward by a resident of North Ayrshire.
We had very serious concerns about this development and the direct damage it would have caused to the local biodiversity and indirect impacts to the wider environment through increased emissions of greenhouse gases.
In October 2009, DONG Energy announced that they were pulling out of plans to build the new power station, but Peel Energy remained committed to the project.
The full application for the power station was submitted on 2 June 2010. Additional information was sought by a number of statutory consultees and an addendum was submitted for further consultation in the summer of 2011.
North Ayrshire Council – a key consultee – objected to the proposals. Amongst their concerns were that the power station would not capture 100 per cent of carbon emissions from the first day of operation, and that the development would have an adverse impact on landscape quality, built heritage and designated natural heritage sites.
Peel Energy's plans were due to be scrutinised at a public inquiry in October this year, triggered by the local council's objection. Along with many other organisations, local communities and individuals, The Say No To Hunterston Campaign was gearing up to fight the proposals through the inquiry, a process which would have been very expensive and time consuming for all involved.