PROPOSALS to prevent the ash clouds that blighted West Fife villages will be discussed next month.

In April and May last year, dust from the lagoons at Low Valleyfield was carried on the wind and hung over the area for weeks, sparking health warnings from NHS Fife and enforcement action from SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency).

Scottish Power apologised and have now come forward with proposals for engineering works and the final capping of the lagoons, with public exhibitions to be held in February.

The ash is a by-product of the coal burned at Longannet Power Station and when the plant was operational, the ash was mixed with water, transported and safely deposited in the lagoons.

Longannet closed in March 2016 and Scottish Power has no further need for the lagoons, which cover a vast area of more than 176 hectares – a full-size football pitch is typically just under one hectare.

After the disruption last year, the energy giant apologised and said the ash clouds had been caused by “exceptionally dry and windy” weather, adding that the dust was “not considered to be hazardous”.

However, SEPA served two enforcement notices on Scottish Power while school pupils were kept indoors at break times and NHS Fife issued several warnings.

Director of public health, Dr Margaret Hannah, had told the Press: “Breathing in dust can be bad for your health, especially if you have heart or lung disease, or asthma already. For this reason, whilst we do not have any evidence at present that the type of fine ash in West Fife presents a greater health risk than other fine dusts, those in the affected area are best advised to avoid inhaling the dust wherever possible.”

Scottish Power Generation have now submitted a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) which has been agreed by Fife Council and gives the company 12 weeks to firm up their proposals before a full planning application can be tabled. The ash lagoons are the subject of a Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permit, which requires the implementation of an aftercare and restoration plan now that operations at the power station have ceased.

Agents for the company said feedback from the consultation events would help them finalise the details of the plan for the final capping of the lagoons and engineering work. Community councils in High and Low Valleyfield, Culross, Torryburn and Newmills have been informed and public exhibitions, the dates of which are yet to be confirmed, will be held in February.