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Locals 'unable' to oppose Scottish coal power station

Dearbhla Crosse

October 15th, 2010

Campaign groups including RSPB challenge decision not to allow environmental objections to a new coal-fired power station in North Ayrshire

Locals in North Ayrshire are powerless to contest proposals for the UK's first new coal-fired power station for 40 years because of a flaw in government planning regulations.

The application to build Hunterston coal-fired power station was one of 14 major projects across Scotland, including some for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, which are to be decided upon by the National Planning Framework (NPF).

However, the Hunterston application was submitted five months late thereby missing the main public consultation on all the proposed developments. It was also not advertised locally as required under EU law with campaign groups complaining local residents were largely unaware of the plans.

Clare Symonds, from Plannning Democracy, which campaigns for a more locally-accountable planning system, says Ayrshire residents had been 'disempowered' and had no 'meaningful public participation.'

'Unless you had any interest in planning you would never have heard of this [application]. It has huge implications for the future of Scotland's energy policy, climate change and the local environment.'

Now that the public consultation has closed, only aesthetic objections can be made to developments on the NPF list. Environmental concerns about carbon emissions and the untested nature of carbon capture and storage (CSS) technology, which developers plan to trial, are inadmissible during the consultation process. This is despite claims on the NPF website that it ‘addresses the major contemporary challenges of global competition, climate change and resource depletion.’

‘This means that during the consenting process it would be invalid to argue that Scotland does not need new coal-fired power stations to provide its energy, even if it can be shown that our energy needs can easily be met from renewable sources,’ Zoe Clelland, Senior Conservation Officer at the RSPB Scotland told The Ecologist. ‘We were very surprised to see such an environmentally damaging and unnecessary proposal being included.’

Although an Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed £3 billion power station has taken place, the RSPB has raised serious concerns that water temperature of the sea could rise by up to 14C affecting biodiversity in the area.

If the development goes ahead on the SSSI, it would result in the direct loss of over 30 of some of the best intertidal habitats in the Clyde which is so rare on the Ayrshire coast,’ Clelland said.

Organisations such as WWF and RSPB Scotland have now formed a coalition challenging the proposal, with more than 16,000 objections having been raised. A judicial review on the proposal is due to take place in November.

Protests against the coal plant proposals earlier this week led to local activists shutting down the headquarters of the developers, Ayrshire Power in Glasgow.

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