Hunterston Port is a unique economic asset for Ayrshire, Scotland and the UK. The site in the country offers Hunterston’s unrivalled combination of deep-water, extensive land and transport links.

The location is probably best known for the coal imports that helped to fuel much of Scotland’s energy production for many years. However, in recent years, the change in government energy policy away from fossil fuels towards renewable sources has meant that role no longer exists.

Although this shift only happened in recent years, it has been long in the making. Going back as far as 2003, operator Peel Ports was publicly discussing alternative futures for the site, recognising the likely long-term direction of government policy on fossil fuels.

The brownfield land formerly used for coal storage now presents an unparalleled development opportunity. Alongside this, there are marine facilities that take advantage of some of the deepest water in the UK, providing scope for various engineering works.

Peel Ports is now setting out a new strategy for the port, building on several years of preparation to conceive a viable and sustainable transformation over the next 20 years.

Hunterston Port and Resource Centre (PARC) now has the potential to transform Scotland’s prospects in a variety of key economic sectors, providing jobs, skills development and export opportunities for decades to come.

The local challenge

A socio-economic study by consultants Barton Willmore has found that the long term decline in population and jobs in North Ayrshire has the potential to undermine future economic prosperity, particularly in the context of an ageing population.

Economic development through schemes such as PARC is likely to be crucial, both in bringing jobs back to North Ayrshire and also by encouraging working age migration into the area. This in turn will help to maintain and boost the viability of local services such as schools, GP surgeries and retail centres.

The relatively high level of unemployment, low economic activity rates and net out-commuting across the occupations also suggest that there is scope for greater utilisation and retention of the existing resident workforce.

HeraldScotland: Hunterston, AyrshireHunterston, Ayrshire

North Ayrshire’s declining population is likely to make delivering even the relatively modest forecast for 1,050 jobs over the next 10 years a challenge.

Without population growth, unemployment rates will need to fall below historic lows, and

Net-commuting will need to improve either by convincing Glasgow City Region-bound workers to move to local jobs or encourage more in-commuting from GCR (which itself raises issues of environmental sustainability).

The opportunity

The emerging North Ayrshire Development Plan and the Ayrshire Growth Deal set a local context for growth that is significantly above trend based forecasts Hunterston is central to this ambitious growth agenda.

The development of Hunterston PARC can directly contribute to several Scottish

Government policies and strategies through three i’s: investing in people and infrastructure, innovation and internationalism. It can also support energy generation and the circular economy.

At a regional level, the recently announced Ayrshire growth deal – funded by both the

Scottish and UK governments - is expected to act as a major economic stimulus, which the PARC is ideally positioned to support.

The Master Plan process

The Master Plan describes Peel Ports’ vision for the site and some of the critical issues that need to be considered. Master Plans are non-statutory planning documents that clarify objectives, help partners to consider the implications for themselves, and inform the local community.

In terms of detail, the plan sets out how the site is expected to change, how this will affect transport and the environment, and how it will be managed to have the maximum positive impact on the local community and economy.

Up for debate

As essential part of any Master Plan is liaison and discussion with all stakeholders. Peel Ports is conscious that there can sometimes be differences of opinion or approach but this should not be to the detriment of continual and open dialogue.

The guidance it has followed in preparing this Master Plan advises an essential aspect of the development of an effective master plan is achieved through engagement with interested parties including local and regional planning bodies and transport network providers and local communities, both during the master planning process and once the Master Plan has been published.

It is an approach that has already been proven to be effective in its Master Plans for Port of Liverpool and The Manchester Ship Canal and Port of Sheerness Port in Kent.

So, the company is encouraging all residents, businesses and others with a stake in the economic future of North Ayrshire to contribute to the consultation which will run from May to July this year.

ARDROSSAN HARBOUR – A REGIONAL CATALYST FOR GROWTH

HeraldScotland: Ardrossan HarbourArdrossan Harbour

Peel Ports, North Ayrshire Council and partners are investing £28 million to redevelop Ardrossan Harbour ensuring a vital ferry service for the mainland and the island community of Arran and Campbeltown continues.

Ardrossan is the mainland home port for the Ardrossan to Brodick and Ardrossan to Campbeltown ferry services.

The redevelopment of the Harbour will play a key part in the wider regeneration ambitions for Ardrossan with a further £15.5m funding agreed as part of the Ayrshire Growth Deal to develop plans for a marina extension and new International Marine Science and Environmental Centre - which will seek to drive innovation in marine science and ensure the Firth of Clyde is recognised as an exemplar in marine sustainability.

Recent years have seen significant growth in passenger and vehicular use of the ferries and new investment is required to deliver the needs of communities and create facilities that meet the increasing level of demand.

The redevelopment of Ardrossan Harbour is a major project and remains key to Peel Ports’ ambitions. It will support a more resilient first-class ferry services between Arran, Campbeltown and the mainland and bring economic benefits to North Ayrshire.

As part of the Ardrossan Harbour Taskforce, created and led by Scottish Ministers, we have been developing plans to safeguard the accessibility, quality and reliability of ferry services by enhancing the infrastructure of the port and surrounding areas.

These ambitious plans also address the socio-economic needs of local communities by supporting new levels of economic activity, as well as improving service reliability for mainland and island communities.

Under Peel Ports’ commitment as Harbour Authority, we are investing in significant infrastructure upgrades, which includes the upgrade of the Brodick berth to accommodate the new Glenn Sannox ferry which is the first in a new generation of dual fuel ferries to be deployed on the network. In addition to the works to the Brodick berth Peel Ports will also be refurbishing the Irish berth and linkspan.

In addition, North Ayrshire Council has committed to making improvements to the passenger terminals, access roads, car parking and vehicle marshalling facilities and improved town centre connectivity. All of which will be delivered by 2021, with some works already commencing port side.

The improvement works at Ardrossan Harbour will act as a catalyst for the wider regeneration of the Ardrossan area, helping boost jobs creation, as well as support regional infrastructure improvements, including enhanced town centre connections to the port terminal.

Retaining a ferry service alongside the upgrade investment will create more jobs and generate a further £6.3m a year of GVA, which equates to £75m over 25 years.

Throughout the whole development process the Ardrossan Harbour Taskforce has engaged with the local community and residents can view up to date information on the plans online at: www.north-ayrshire.gov.uk/ardrossanharbour

This article appear in Business HQ on the 21st March 2019