Hunterston decision hugely disappointing

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COURT JUDGEMENT ON HUNTERSTON POWER STATION

The Supreme Court has today ruled that they will not remove plans for a coal-fired power station near Largs from Scotland’s national plan.

Marco McGinty, a local resident and keen birdwatcher, took the Government to the Supreme Court  because local people never had a chance to learn about the major development – the plans to build the power station at Hunterston were never advertised in a local paper and no alternatives were credibly considered as required by EU law. Both these problems stemmed from the fact the power station was only added into the plan at the very last minute

Planning Democracy says:

“Marco McGinty has bravely sought to uphold the rights of citizens in Scotland to participate fully in major environmental decisions. This case has required Marco to make significant personal sacrifices of time, money and energy, in return for which the courts have refused to recognize his right to a say in a decision that will have lasting consequences not just for the future of a site he cares deeply about, but for air quality and the climate throughout Scotland.”

The court agreed that Marco had the right to take the case to the Court but did not agree that Marco was treated unfairly. They decided that the Edinburgh Gazette, an official online publication largely unknown to ordinary members of the public, counted as advertising in the local area.

Planning Democracy says:

“This result is a significant setback for anyone who believes that major infrastructure decisions in Scotland should be made in a transparent and democratic way.  The Government’s planning policy claims that effective engagement with the public can lead to better plans, better decisions and more satisfactory outcomes. In this case we weren’t given a chance to find out and anyone who believes that Scotland’s system of planning is fair and equitable need look no further to realise they are horribly wrong.

“Beneath the legal technicalities there is a fundamental problem with the process for designating nationally significant development projects that the Scottish Government should not ignore. The ‘need’ for such developments must be established not through a shadowy process of lobbying in smoke filled rooms but through a transparent and democratic debate about the infrastructure the country requires and how it can best be provided.  The government needs to demonstrate that they recognize the crucial contribution that the public must make to this debate.

“It is deeply disappointing that citizens in Scotland still need to take to the courts to ensure that their internationally agreed rights to participate in planning decisions are respected. Worryingly, this judgment suggests the courts still do not take those rights seriously and are content to endorse processes that clearly deny the public a voice. It is depressing that the legal process continues both to restrict access to environmental justice and to take such a heavy toll on those who seek redress through its channels.”


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Clare Symonds

Clare Symonds is the Chair of Planning Democracy.

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