Leading conservation charities are calling on North Ayrshire Council to ensure that one of the most important places for wildlife in the region is safeguarded from inappropriate development.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust, Buglife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland and RSPB Scotland have written to the Council to highlight the importance of the Ardeer Peninsula’s natural environment, and ask for a Strategic Environmental Assessment to be carried out ahead of proposed large-scale development on the peninsula.
This process would highlight any potential negative impacts that new built developments and increased public access could have on Ardeer’s natural environment.
Bruce Wilson, Public Affairs Manager, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “Ardeer is home to an impressive range of wildlife which should be celebrated and protected for future generations. Sadly the plans that have been outlined give no indication that its natural importance is even recognised.
“It is vital that the natural environment is taken into account within any plans for development on Ardeer. Undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment is an important step towards identifying the potential impact of any new roads, footpaths and buildings so that negative effects can be either avoided or mitigated.”
A Memorandum of Understanding signed by North Ayrshire Council and NPL Group earlier this year lists a number of potential developments on the Ardeer Peninsula, which could be funded through the Ayrshire Growth Deal. These include a new road bridge linking Ardeer to Irvine, large- leisure and tourism developments, and houses. The agreement also proposes repairing the footbridge that crosses the harbour.
Without careful planning these developments could damage fragile habitats and lead to increased disturbance to sensitive wildlife. Disappointingly, the Memorandum of Understanding makes no mention of Ardeer’s important natural heritage.
More than 1,500 species, including birds, mammals, plants and insects, have been recorded on the Ardeer peninsula by local naturalists. This rich biodiversity is supported by a variety of sand dune habitats which are among the most important of their kind in Scotland.
Iain Hamlin, Secretary of the FRIENDS of Stevenston conservation group said: “The southern end of Ardeer has a natural coastal environment which is unrivalled in the south of Scotland. Similar sites attract huge numbers of visitors each year. Badly planned development would put the potential of the area to attract low-impact wildlife tourism at risk.”
Toby Wilson, Senior Conservation Officer, RSPB Scotland said: “The Council must ensure that any future plans for this amazing part of the world are developed in a transparent way, with proper consultation, and a commitment to protect and enhance the area’s wildlife.”
Suzanne Burgess, Buglife Scotland Manager said: “Ardeer is one of the most important sites in Scotland for invertebrates due to the diverse and unique range of species found there. It is vital that any development of the site is carried out sensitively, without causing a negative impact on the long-term survival of species in Scotland and a nationally important sand-dune system.”