Plans for a highly-controversial coal-fired power station at Hunterston have been scrapped.
Ayrshire Power Ltd, the company behind the proposal, announced last week that it intended to withdraw a planning application for the facility. Blaming the economic downturn for its decision, Ayrshire Power said this had created ‘uncertainty’ over funding. The company, which is owned by Manchester-based Peel Holdings, also confirmed it would withdraw the project from the UK Government’s Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) competition, which carries a prize of £1bn for schemes that can trap and bury carbon dioxide.
Last November North Ayrshire Council unanimously rejected Ayrshire Power’s plans for a coal-fired power station. The proposal, which had attracted over 20,000 objections, was due to be the subject of a public enquiry later this year: that, too, will now be scrapped.
News of Ayrshire Power’s decision was welcomed by Cllr Willie Gibson, Leader of North Ayrshire Council and by local MP Katy Clark.
SNP councillor Gibson said, “The Council unanimously rejected these proposals last November on the basis that the application was contrary to local and national planning policies and would not have captured 100 per cent of carbon emissions from day one. It lacked sufficient information on the potential impact on human health and the local environment.”
Cllr Gibson said the local authority had “shared the concerns of a large number of local people about the adverse impact the plant would have on the local area,” adding, “We have the highest unemployment rate in Scotland and while this proposal would have brought much-needed jobs to the area, the cost was simply too high in terms of risking public health.”
Mr Gibson believes Ayrshire Power’s decision to withdraw its application “is a victory for common sense.”
Labour MP Katy Clark also welcomed the decision, saying, “With over 20,000 objections, it was clear that public opinion in the vicinity of the site was against the proposed coal plant. This is a real victory for everybody who campaigned against it, and a huge amount of money will be saved as the costs of a public enquiry would have been a big burden to the public purse.”
However, Ms Clark also sounded a note of caution. The MP for North Ayrshire & Arran said, “The presumption for a coal plant at Hunterston remains in the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework (NPF). It was added by the SNP, with virtually no public consultation, and now they want us to believe they welcome its withdrawal.”
Ms Clark referred to comments made by Cunninghame North’s SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson in 2008, when he was quoted welcoming the plan for a coal-fired power station at Hunterston. Katy Clark said, “Kenneth Gibson MSP welcomed the coal plant back in 2008 and said he had been having discussions for over a year on the proposal, although he had not passed that information onto his electors.
“Now he says he believes we have seen the last coal-fired proposal at Hunterston. Maybe he could ensure that’s the case by finally having his party remove it from the National Planning Framework.”