"ONE of the final chapters in the Longannet Power Station story" will explain how an industrial legacy can become an area of natural beauty and wildlife.

Scottish Power have applied to Fife Council for permission to cap the three remaining ash lagoons at Low Valleyfield and erect a wind turbine as part of their after-care plans.

Planning officers have recommended that councillors approve the proposals, which were changed due to environmental concerns and now include a permanent water body for roosting and wading birds, at Tuesday's central and west planning committee.

The plans will prevent "fugitive dust" from the lagoons being carried on the wind and affecting West Fife villages, which happened for several weeks in 2017 and led to health concerns, school pupils being kept indoors and enforcement action from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

A council report explained: "The proposed capping of the remaining ash lagoons is one of the final chapters in the Longannet Power Station story, and is necessary to allow the applicant to surrender the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permit and to guard against any recurrence of windblown ash detrimentally affecting local residents, as occurred in 2017.

"It is a requirement of previous planning permission that the site is capped and restored."

The lagoons, south of Low Valleyfield, were constructed on reclaimed land from the Forth estuary in the 1960s, later extended in the 1970s, and cover an area of more than 176 hectares.

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

Longannet closed in March 2016 and Scottish Power held public consultation events in 2018 about their proposed engineering works and restorations plans.

The three remaining lagoons, 5, 21 and 22, are currently flooded and Scottish Power estimate the capping process will take 12-18 months.

The proposals aim to remove the risk of "fugitive dust emissions", provide a "suitable growing medium", maintain a sustainable habitat in keeping with the natural heritage and to comply with landfill regulations.

There will be landscaping and areas set aside for re-growth, with grass, small trees, gorse bushes, shrubs and wild flowers to encourage wildlife – mammals such as roe deer have been spotted in lagoons that have already been restored.

Low-lying areas capable of flooding are planned for roosting and wading birds, although locals have concerns about standing water becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

A further application to cover restoration for the wider Valleyfield site will follow.

The council said the original proposals had been "significantly amended" after comments and objections from NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage), RSPB Scotland, community councils and local residents.

To the south of the lagoons is Preston Island, classified as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, while this area of the Forth has wetlands of international importance, a special protection area for the conservation of wild birds, a site of special scientific interest and a local nature reserve.

The main changes will see a more substantial, and permanent, water body on part of lagoon 5 and an 11.8 metre-tall wind turbine next to it, to provide electric power for a pump.

Officers said the current plan was a "workable and acceptable compromise solution that allows the applicant to comply with SEPA requirements for the site, whilst respecting the local, national and international importance of the site in an environmental context, and having cognisance of local residents' concerns about having large areas of standing water close to local settlements".