Lord Brailsford delivered his judgement today on the judicial review regarding Hunterston and the NPF2.
The court’s judgement in relation to the judicial review brought by Marco McGinty against the designation of a new coal-fired power station and transhipment hub at Hunterston makes depressing reading for anyone interested in a democratic planning system or a reasonable hearing from the Scottish courts.
Whilst media coverage has focused on the development versus environment narrative, the true significance of the case for the planning of new infrastructure in Scotland is somewhat different. The idea of a national planning framework (NPF) is surely a good one, but the process for designating major development needs to be designed to ensure a rigorous democratic testing of proposals.
Hunterston was a late addition to the second NPF and not subject to proper public scrutiny, local people – those who have to live with the development – were barely aware of the issue until the developer began to prepare their application. By that time the NPF had established the ‘principle’ of a new power station so that only questions of detail could be debated.
In the judgement, the courts maintain that publication in the ‘Edinburgh Gazette’ fulfils the legal requirements to publicise decisions about such ‘national developments’. Legally that may be so, but practically it highlights how woefully detached the courts are from the realities of everyday life.
This judgement backs a decision-making process that has sought to minimise public debate. We would urge the Scottish Government to look beyond this ‘success’ and rise to the challenge of creating a more robustly democratic planning system.
The full judgement can be found here.