IT is the former coastal coal port in North Ayrshire that helped to fuel much of Scotland's energy production for many years.

Originally constructed as an iron ore terminal Hunterston was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1979.

However, there has been no market for coal imports since the closure of Longannet power station in 2016 and every since the site has lain dormant.

READ MORE: Hundreds of jobs to be created in £30m Ayrshire port redevelopment 

Now Peel Ports, the UK’s second largest port group, has revealed its 'plans' for a multi-million-pound major port and industrial centre at Hunterston, one of Scotland’s most important development sites comprising a 300-acre brownfield footprint, deep water, and rail connections.

It is calling on North Ayrshire residents and businesses to share their opinions about potential uses of the port and marine yard, which it says is expected to support over 1,700 jobs and add over £140m in economic value to Scotland.

The project, which features a dry dock, 300-acre brownfield site and deep water puts forward eight "potential uses" including a liquid natural gas terminal, a combined cycle gas turbine power station, a train manufacturing plan and modular manufacturing.


Also in the melting pot is concrete production, a marine construction and decommissioning hub, an aquaculture facility and a plastics recycling and storage centre It forms part Peel Ports' vision for Hunterston and how it intends to develop the site over the next twenty years.

Last year Peel revealed plans to create hundreds of jobs to create a decommissioning and renewables hub on the site. It is not yet clear how the consultation affects that project.

The plan for the site then was to support the development of the next generation of renewable energy such as offshore wind and the decommissioning and recycling of assets from the oil and gas sector.

Scottish Enterprise had already approved a funding offer of £10 million towards what was a £30m project to redevelop the Hunterston Port and Resource Centre site.

It was said at the time that that backing would help Peel Ports to unlock private sector investment for the site, which has been in operation since the 1970s.

That project proved controversial with hundreds attending a public meeting in March where complaints were made about the lack of an environmental impact assessment into the Hunterston decommissioning site.

Among the opponents was marine biologist David Nairn who presented an online report highlighting various concerns about the controversial project, and repeating calls for a full Environmental Impact Assessment on the development site.


Andrew Hemphill, port director of Peel Ports Clydeport said of the new proposals: “No other single site in the UK offers Hunterston’s unrivalled combination of deep-water, extensive land area and transport links. This historic industrial site has the potential to transform Scotland’s prospects in a variety of key economic sectors, providing jobs, skills development, import and export opportunities for decades to come.

“The intended benefits that we have set out can only be achieved with the input of the local community, public sector agencies and commercial partners. That will help us to create a final version that reflects the shared ambitions of the people who live, work and invest in North Ayrshire.”

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Peel predicted that the new Hunterston Port and Resource Centre had the potential to support North Ayrshire communities by "halting or even reversing the trend in declining population, creating the jobs that will, in turn, maintain demand for supply services like local shops and public services.

The consultation will close on June 28 and Peel Ports hopes to publish a "revised adopted masterplan" taking into account all feedback next year.

Kenneth Gibson, MSP for Cunninghame North, said: “Our young people need opportunities for high-quality, skilled jobs and I am determined to see those brought to Hunterston. It is a prime site for investment in infrastructure and attracting new companies that will provide such roles.

“Developing the site is also a once-in-a-generation chance for the region to lead the way with innovative and sustainable industries, potentially in the circular economy or renewable energy. One thing is for sure is that we much create a new future for employment in the region otherwise we will continue to see a drain of talent to Glasgow and beyond. I urge everyone with an interest in the health of North Ayrshire to read the masterplan and get involved in the debate.”

Estimates last year suggested that decommissioning alone could be worth around £11 billion to the Scottish economy.

Allan McQuade, director of business infrastructure at SE, said at the time that the decommissioning and renewables project could, at a conservative estimate, create hundreds of jobs.

He said: "We are supporting the provision of the dock gate infrastructure and dredging which will open up the dry dock."

Campaigners had previously raised fears that the Firth of Clyde was set to become a "scrapyard for hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rusting metal and toxic contaminants".

They also feared the dry dock dredging will pose a serious risk of suffocation for the protected habitats and rare species, as well as endangering whales, porpoises, seals and dolphins.

Hunterston in numbers.

300. The acreage of the brownfield site.

10.3 million: The volume of coal the port handled at a peak in 2005.

1968: The year Hunterston Port was initially identifiedas a site that could provide an ore-importing terminal to service the iron and steel industry.