Q: Why is Ardeer the only proposed site in Scotland?
I think that it’s frustrating that many of us in Stevenston and the community have been crying out for the peninsula to be used as a nature reserve and the land to be left alone, for sand mining to stop with no joy! Which I do understand is largely due to the outdated SDO. It however does not lessen the blow that the land is now being considered for a large-scale industrial experiment. Yes, in the past it was an industrial site but that does not mean it has to be again, as well as considering that in the timeframe of planning to construction couldn’t the time be better spent investing in and improving renewables?

A: There were 5 possible sites in Scotland, but only one of these – Ardeer – made the shortlist. Ardeer is a wonderful site: it is enormous – more than 670 hectares, of which the competition needs around 100-150 ha; has excellent transport links (road and rail); is coastal, enabling both sea cooling and sea transport for larger construction items; is well placed for electrical supply; has excellent educational and training infrastructure (all 4 universities in Glasgow, and all FE colleges in Glasgow and Ayrshire will cooperate on delivering comprehensive training for all stages of the workforce); has progressive local and regional government, each with a climate emergency declared and a commitment to decarbonising industry; the prevailing socio-economic conditions in the local area merit such a investment.

Has both an industrial allocation and is identified in the adopted Local Development Plan and as an area for potential future growth.

Q: Why is Ardeer a good location for this plant?

See the earlier response: Ardeer has the space, flexibility, coastal site, excellent transport links, excellent education and proximity to a large population base: all these are desirable aspects for such a development.

Q: Are there other programmes like STEP getting started now?

There are fusion projects around the world, including many in the UK, but only the STEP project has an explicit aim to produce electricity for the national grid from fusion.

Q: What if we gain Independence from the rest of the UK?
Q: Considering the timelines what thought has been given to potential Scottish independence?

A: This is a reserved political issue – the STEP siting process is concerned only with the technical realities of choosing the best site, irrespective of politics. Ultimately, the choice of site is made by the UK Government.

Q: How much will the ‘full consent process’ help us if the Secretary of State choses this site. Won’t it be a done deal?

A: No – it will only initiate the full planning process.

Q: But the only chance we have to make sure it doesn’t happen here at all is now?

A: If the planning is refused, then the project will go elsewhere.

Q: Who will own the land used for this project? Will it continue to be owned by NPL, will there be planning input or will the hotly disputed SDO (Special Development Order) continue to be in place, if it doesn’t get overturned by Holyrood?

A: UKAEA are committed to the full planning procedures for STEP – the SDO will not feature in that consideration. STEP is open to either acquisition or lease basis land access, but must be able to access site with enduring certainty, and on appropriate commercial terms.

 Q: A special development order from 1953 exists for Ardeer. Does that not give Ardeer advantages over other sites?

A: UKAEA are fully committed to a full planning procedure, regardless of any special local development orders. The Ardeer SDO is not planned as featuring in any aspect of the planning for STEP in Ardeer.

Q: With the SDO, you can ask us all you like, but what happens on NPL doesn’t require planning but if the SDO is still in place… what will all the community consultation and so on actually mean?

A: As mentioned earlier, the SDO is not a feature of the STEP process – and neither is it the motivation for investigating Ardeer as a potential STEP site. UKAEA is committed to the full planning process at whichever site turns out to be the selected one.

Q: What are the dimensions of the buildings you propose?

A: Until the design phase is complete, and therefore the particular site properties are known, the final layout of the building can’t be confirmed.

Q: What is the date that a recommendation of the choice of site will be made to the Secretary of State for energy?

A: The current plan is that UKAEA will submit a recommendation to the Secretary of State in the spring, with a final decision made by the end of 2022.

Q: If you are going to make a recommendation to the Secretary if State in a few months won’t he require more detail than you can provide now?

A: The recommendation to the BEIS Secretary of State will initiate the detailed site survey and planning review that will provide all the answers.

Q: What is the process for further consultation?

A: All feedback is welcome at any time; a full planning process will be initiated at the chosen site, and the relevant community consultations carried out then

Q: Will further consultation be in a more accessible form?

A: Hopefully everyone who would like to engage is offered the chance to participate in an acceptable format – there are paper copies of the documentation, and feedback postcards that can be sent by conventional mail. The full planning process will provide a spectrum of opportunity for all.

 Q: When is the next part of the consultation with the public?

A: The STEP engagement events with UKAEA are now over, but communication with the Fusion Forward Ardeer consortium, which includes North Ayrshire Council, NPL and University of Glasgow, is always welcome.

Q: It is difficult for the local residents to hear that our local environment where we live is being planned for a project which is so large and has such an impact on us but there are so few details about how it will be designed and work.

A: Please be reassured that this is early engagement, precisely to take on board comments and misgivings, and to offer clarity where possible. This isn’t a planning application, but instead an early consultation and opinion-gathering exercise.

Q: How do we object to these plans? It has been a bit surprising that we first heard about it after the Ardeer Peninsula was put forward as an option.

 A: These are just the early stages of exploring if it’s even possible or desirable to locate STEP in Ardeer: this is an early-stage community consultation – not a planning process.

If Ardeer is selected as a possible STEP site, then the full planning consultation will begin. It’s unusual to have a pre-planning consultation exercise like this one – hopefully you will appreciate the good intentions from UKAEA in getting early engagement with a possible hosting community, to discover what the perceived problems are, and testing local opinion before even initiating a planning application.

Q: If we have objections as Ardeer as a site do we direct correspondence to the Secretary/UK gov or Scot gov?

A: If Ardeer is chosen, then a full planning process will be followed, with all the opportunities to register input at all levels (local, Scottish and UK governments).

Q: Who is involved in the Ardeer bid and how was the proposal produced?

A: The bid for the North Ayrshire site is being led by the Fusion Forward (Ardeer) consortium, which represents NPL Group, which owns the land, North Ayrshire Council and the University of Glasgow.

Each partner contributed to the development of the initial bid and the supplementary information required at each phase of assessment by the UKAEA.

The consortium also gratefully acknowledges the support and backing offered by Glasgow City Council in preparing the bid and the valuable feedback offered by Scottish Enterprise during the initial preparation of the proposal.

Q: When will the final decision on where STEP will be located be made?

A: The STEP Recommendation Panel will make their recommendation to the Secretary of State when the phase 2 assessment is complete. This is expected to be some time from April 2022 onwards, with a final decision being made by the Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy by the end of 2022.

Of the five shortlisted sites, Ardeer is the only one in Scotland, with the other four potential locations in England.

UKAEA STEP Programme Siting timeline

Q: Who approves the planning consent for a project like this?

A: Due to the nature and scale of the project, STEP will be subject to an application made under Section 36 of the Electricity Act and an Environmental Impact Assessment. This would be determined by the Scottish Government’s Energy Consents Unit.

North Ayrshire Council will be one of a number of consultees in this process.

Q: What is the Scottish Government’s approach to this project?

A: Scottish Government currently does not have policy position on fusion power. The Scottish Government energy policy is due for review in spring 2022 and we are working closely with Scottish Government officers to ensure they are fully briefed on STEP.