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Ministers intervene in Chinese firm's power station plan

Inch Cape Offshore is owned by a subsidiary of a Chinese Government investment firm.

Cockenzie: Wind farm plan for former power station (file pic).
Cockenzie: Wind farm plan for former power station (file pic). PA/Stuart Caie

Scottish ministers have intervened over a Chinese state-owned company's plans to build a power station near Edinburgh.

Inch Cape Offshore wants to construct a wind farm substation on the site of the former Cockenzie Power Station in East Lothian.

The Scottish Government has taken the unusual step of calling in the planning application, saying it may be of "national importance".

It will now be decided by government ministers instead of local councillors.

Opposition politicians have questioned the timing of the move, which came during the First Minister's official visit to China this week. A government spokesman rejected any suggestion the two events were connected.

Inch Cape is owned by Red Rock Power, a subsidiary of China's largest state-owned investment holding firm.

Nicola Sturgeon opened Red Rock's Edinburgh headquarters in 2016 and pledged to "work closely" with its owner, the Chinese State Development and Investment Corporation (SDIC).

Red Rock: Nicola Sturgeon opens Edinburgh HQ in 2016.
Red Rock: Nicola Sturgeon opens Edinburgh HQ in 2016. Scot Gov

The First Minister met SDIC officials on Tuesday but the power station was not discussed, the Scottish Government said.

The decision to call in the application was criticised by Labour-led East Lothian Council.

Acting council leader Norman Hampshire said: "It is disappointing that such a key decision has been taken out of the hands of the local authority - particularly as the council now owns the former Cockenzie Power Station site."

East Lothian MSP Iain Gray said he will write to the Scottish Government asking for an explanation.

'I will be seeking an explanation as to why this has occurred just now while the First Minister is in China.'
Ian Gray, Scottish Labour MSP

"This decision is a disgrace, I have spent years arguing that local planning decisions must be taken in East Lothian - not by Scottish Government ministers," he said.

"I am very concerned that ministers have chosen to remove this decision from our local representatives.

"The Cockenzie site is critical for local job creation and that could be jeopardised by the placing of a substation right in the middle of it."

The Scottish Labour MSP also questioned the timing of the decision, adding: "I will be seeking an explanation from ministers as to why this has occurred just now while the First Minister is in China."

Scottish Liberal Democrat energy spokesman Liam McArthur also raised concerns about the timing of the announcement.

"Scotland needs to harness its offshore wind resources, but this a strange decision for ministers to take at this stage and local people will understandably wonder how their views will now be taken into account," he said.

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1412173-sturgeon-heartened-by-interest-in-scotland-on-china-visit/ | default

Inch Cape Offshore project manager Ian Johnson said ministers calling in an application was "not unusual".

However, the Scottish Government has only called in nine planning applications before a local authority vote in the last decade.

A government spokesman added: "The Cockenzie Power Station site is included in the National Planning Framework 3 and this application may raise matters of national importance.

"Calling it in will allow further consideration of the case by Ministers before they issue a decision on whether or not planning consent should be granted."

The Inch Cape wind farm would be built around nine miles off the Angus coastline, covering an area of about 150 square kilometres. Electricity generated by the turbines would be brought ashore via proposed the substation at the former Cockenzie plant.

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