THE wait for the final decision on Clydeport’s application to environmental regulators SEPA for a waste management licence for their oil rig decommissioning project at Hunterston could be extended.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency have given assurances to the community that they will take steps to ensure that the ‘environment will be protected’.

A SEPA spokesman said: “The application was received on 4 October. Whilst SEPA has a four month period to determine the application this can be extended if further time is required.”

In a surprise development, the Friends of the Firth of Clyde campaign group say it has been confirmed by Scottish Natural Heritage that the development is ‘likely to cause harm to the protected intertidal area known as the SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) which forms the coastline of Hunterston, Fairlie and Portencross.’

A meeting took place last month involving SEPA, Fairlie Community Council and the Friends of the Firth of Clyde campaign group in relation to the licence application.

However, a spokesperson for the campaign group said that despite the assurances they still harbour ‘substantial concerns’ regarding what is contained in the application, the ‘policing’ of the activities on site, and its impact on the neighbouring SSSI site - site of scientific special interest.

A Friends of the Firth of Clyde spokesperson said: “We welcome SEPA’s recent engagement with the community.

“The decommissioning process is known to be hazardous, involving high levels of noise, dangerous wastes and risks from pollution, requesting to strip 1,000 tonnes of asbestos per day, 2,500 tonnes of rotting marine vegetation and 250 tonnes of radioactive waste.

“The original planning permission granted by North Ayrshire Council was based on the assumption that a more stringent Pollution Prevention Control license application to SEPA would manage all the environmental hazards.

“SEPA have assured the groups that despite Clydeport’s application to decommission rigs on the larger coal jetty this will not be allowed.

“However, based on previous experiences of Clydeport’s coal operations, the groups have serious concerns as to who will police this.”

Last month, NAC planning committee voted not to oppose the license, providing thatthe proposals to utilise Hunterston Coal Jetty are omitted from the license and that SEPA is satisfied that the limits set for any relevant discharges to air, land and water would be protective of the environment.

The council also knocked back calls for a full environmental impact assessment of the site.

A spokesperson for Peel Ports said: “Peel Ports appreciates the concerns of the local community with regards to the environment. All potential environmental effects will have to be fully assessed and mitigated in collaboration with Marine Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, who are the custodians of the natural environment. In addition, noise, air and water pollution are heavily regulated to ensure that standards are maintained and Peel Ports will adhere to the appropriate statutory environmental requirements.”