Opposition to a new waste incinerator in Irvine is growing, claim protesters – even though work on building the facility is already under way.

Work has already begun on the plant at the Oldhall West Industrial Estate and is expected to be completed by 2025.

Locals now hope to persuade environmental protection agency SEPA not to grant incinerator owners Doveryard an operator's licence.

A meeting in the town's Volunteer Rooms to coordinate local opposition to the plans attracted more than 15 individuals and organisations.

The organiser – Arthur West, of North Ayrshire and Irvine TUC – said he was encouraged by the turnout to the April 4 event.

He added:"There was good number of people from the trade unions, to the Greens, CND and various environmental groups.

"We are planning another meeting for April 20 and a placard protest outside North Ayrshire Council offices at Cunnnghame House six days later."

A jobs fair for the plant - which Doveryard says will eventually employ around 200 people - was held in January.

Planning permission for the Murdoch Place plant was approved in January 2020.

Last month it was reported that the developers want permission to introduce 24-hour working at the site until the end of August - and to increase the height of the chimney at the plant by 10 metres.

Mr West says that the campaign will go under the title of 'Irvine Without Incinerators'.

Backing has also come from former civil engineer and incinerator expert Mike Ryan.

He blames the deaths of his 14-week-old daughter Veronica in 1985 and 19-year-old son David in 1999 on harmful emissions in his home town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire.

Veronica had a lung infection and Stephen was suffering from leukemia at the time.

Mr Ryan has analysed infant death rates by electoral wards, and found that those living near incinerators were more likely to die.

In 2008 he wrote to the then First Minister, Alex Salmond, calling for a moratorium on new incinerators in Scotland, which the Scottish Government finally implemented last year.

Plans for the Murdoch Place facility in Irvine were approved in January 2020 - before the ban was introduced.

Mr Ryan, 74, said: “The people of Irvine are right to oppose this incinerator.

"Incineration promoters claim that emissions pose no risk to health, yet they fail to provide any data to back up such an opinion."

The father-of-four was part of a successful campaign in 2008 to oppose an incinerator in the Highlands town of Invergordon – and another one a year later in Dorking, Surrey.

Another concerned opponent of the plans, Irvine resident Richard Leat from Irvine Without Incinerators, said: "We’re in a climate crisis. We urgently need to stop extracting fossil fuels. We need to transition to renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

"Burning plastic waste also releases a range of toxic gases, heavy metals, and particles into the air.

"These can be bad for our health. While we continue to invest in waste incineration infrastructure, we simply drive up the need for waste to make it pay, making the necessary reduction in our waste (by recycling and better still reuse) so much more financially difficult.

"The community of Irvine has not properly been consulted and planning permission pushed through before the moratorium on any new incinerators in Scotland was put in place."

Doveryard say 200 workers will be employed at the Irvine incinerator plant – with up to 30 permanent jobs to be created at the site.

A spokesperson added: "It is a clean and safe way of treating waste that cannot economically or practically be recycled.

"The facility will operate under strict Scottish Environmental Protection Agency permit conditions with emissions monitored continuously to ensure they comply with the levels set within the environmental permit.

"We want to be a good neighbour and we would encourage anybody with an interest in the facility, or any concerns about it, to contact us."