Plans for a new factory to provide equipment for green energy have been criticised by environmentalists, who claim it will destroy a protected reserve for migratory birds.
Clydeport, which owns the land around the controversial planned Hunterston power plant near Largs, on the Ayrshire coast, hopes to create a renewables manufacturing facility, such as a wind turbine factory, and a trans-shipment hub for cargo vessels.
But environmental charities have warned that the proposals, which would develop more than 200 acres of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), would destroy an important habitat for rare species such as the bar-tailed godwit and the red-breasted merganser, as well as more common birds such as oystercatchers, curlew, redshank, wigeon and ring plover.
In a masterplan document outlining its proposals for the area, Clydeport states that Hunterston is “ideally located” for the renewables market, pointing to its proximity to offshore windfarms on Kintyre and Argyll.
Environmentalists have already launched a protest over the creation of a £3 billion coal-fired power station nearby, claiming it would spoil the SSSI. But a renewables facility would see a far larger area of mudflats being turned over to development.
Aedán Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland, said the birds used the site as a “refuelling point” for long journeys.
“The intertidal mudflat habitat acts like a motorway service station to these birds. It is enormously rich and is brimming with crustaceans, shellfish, bugs and all manner of invertebrate life that forms the mainstay of these birds’ diets,” he said.
“It allows them to refuel after what are often huge migratory journeys from the north. As such, it is an incredibly important site, and all the more so since many similar sites have already been lost due to development pressure.”
A spokeswoman for Scottish Natural Heritage said: “We’re aware that Hunterston is one of the sites being considered for renewables manufacture. We would have serious concerns, but would set these in context of the social and economic importance of the development, which we have to consider.”
But Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, which promotes the renewables industry, said: “Hunterston has been a busy port for many decades and has the potential to be an important hub for offshore wind, an industry which could create up to 28,000 jobs across Scotland and make a significant cut in carbon emissions.”
Clydeport refused to comment.
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