People living near the proposed site at Hunterston in North Ayrshire said they had not been properly consulted on the project, and many are fiercely opposed to the new power station on economic, environmental and medical grounds. One action group, Communities Opposed to New Coal at Hunterston (Conch), has appealed for a judicial review of the planning process that the Scottish Government followed.

Under the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework (NPF) a consultation was carried out to gauge opinion on a range of projects deemed nationally important to Scotland, but the campaigners have complained that Hunterston was not added until a separate annexe published after the initial consultation.

Clare Symonds of Planning Democracy, a voluntary group supporting Conch as part of its campaign to reform the planning process, said the case could set the ball rolling for a spate of similar actions.

She said: “According to EU legislation, they didn’t do their consultation correctly, and that has meant we can make a legal challenge. What we’re asking for is that the Hunterston power station is removed from the NPF, and if we’re successful that will have a big impact, and it sets a precedent. They’ve omitted several things they should have done, so I think we stand a good chance of winning.”

Among other complaints, the campaigners said publicity for the Hunterston consultation was carried only in the Edinburgh Gazette, a paper not widely available in North Ayrshire. Thus the government did not make enough effort to inform residents, they said, which could be a breach of domestic laws.

If they are unsuccessful, the action is likely to cost around £100,000, funded by contributions from the community and environment groups.

Though this case revolves around planning permission rather than the wider issue of coal power, the campaigners accused the government of hypocrisy for preaching a green agenda but still building fossil fuel plants.

A government spokesman said it would be “inappropriate” to comment, but added that the new planning system had increased local participation. The public could have its say on siting, design and environmental effects, he said, and the government would place a high importance on local opinions.