Broad coalition of organisations and nearly 20,000 individuals urge Scottish Minsters to refuse permission for coal plant.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh yesterday (4 October 2011) issued a ruling that Scottish Ministers did not act illegally in deciding that there was a national need for a new coal plant at Hunterston.

Scottish Minsters included the Hunterston proposals in the second National Planning Framework for Scotland, as they considered at the time that there was a national need for new baseload electricity generation. 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.

Scottish Minsters included the Hunterston proposals in the second National Planning Framework for Scotland, as they considered at the time that there was a national need for new baseload electricity generation. 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.

Local resident, Mr Marco McGinty, who regularly visits the site to go bird watching, challenged Scottish Minsters’ decision in the Court of Session in Edinburgh. Mr McGinty has been supported by a broad coalition of organisations and individuals.

The coalition are very disappointed in this decision. 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.

It really does serve to show how profoundly undemocratic the Scottish planning and legal systems can be and how incredibly difficult it is for the ordinary individual or other parties to challenge Government decisions. Scotland is already behind the rest of the UK and much of Europe in opening up access to the courts. This decision seems to go against the flow of progress happening elsewhere in the UK and Europe. We will be scrutinising the detail of the judgement very closely over the coming days before deciding whether to support any appeal of this decision.

However, this decision does not mean by any means that Peel Energy’s plan for Hunterston will now go ahead. It could, and should, still be refused by Scottish Ministers. The fact that there have been almost 20,000 objections and the previous Scottish Parliament voted against the proposals shows just how unwanted it is.

Regardless of this judgement, Peel Energy should take the message that their damaging development is neither needed nor wanted, and they should do the right thing and withdraw their application.

We will also continue to push for changes to the process by which national developments are identified so that such ill thought out, environmentally damaging proposals can not be given national development status again and individuals and communities are not denied meaningful opportunities to influence decisions about other nationally important infrastructure projects in future.

In response to the judgment the petitioner, Marco McGinty said:

“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.

“In the coming days I will be discussing the decision with my legal advisors and supporters before deciding whether to lodge an appeal.

“However, the previous Scottish Parliament previously voted against the plans and I urge Scottish Ministers to reject this environmentally damaging, unwanted and unneeded proposal.”

Ends

Notes to editors

1.The Court of Session in Edinburgh has issued a ruling on whether Scottish Ministers acted illegally in deciding that there was a national need for a new coal plant at Hunterston. The proposal by Peel Energy to build a vast new polluting coal plant on a nationally important wildlife site has resulted in massive opposition. Almost 20,000 objections have been lodged and a broad coalition of environmental organisations and charities, including RSPB Scotland, Planning Democracy, WWF Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland and SWT have formed a coalition to help oppose the scheme and draw attention to the lack of consultation and weaknesses of the public involvement process. Marco McGinty, a local resident who regularly uses the site for bird watching, lodged the judicial review and has been supported by the coalition.

Marco was successful in obtaining a protective expenses order – the first in Scotland – which limits his liabilities to £30,000. Fundraising efforts so far have been successful but are still short of the total that may be required. Further donations to the campaign can be made at
www.justgiving.com/Hunterston

2. A link to the judicial review can be found on the courts website:
 www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2011CSOH163.html