The Ardeer peninsula in North Ayrshire has the richest biodiversity in the region.

An incredible array of more than 1500 different species of plants and animals, a number of which are nationally rare, have been recorded there.

118 species of bees and wasps have been recorded, making it the most important site in Scotland for the group. Ardeer is also the furthest north-west breeding site for lesser whitethroats in Europe.

Dune peaks on Ardeer peninsula © Iain Hamlin
Dune peaks on Ardeer peninsula © Iain Hamlin

This incredible diversity is supported by a rich range of habitats that range from sand dunes to heathland and scrubby woodland. While parts of Ardeer have been lightly developed for industries including a dynamite factory, it has been largely undisturbed by human activity, making it a haven for wildlife.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of protection and renewed interest in developing Ardeer, the peninsula’s rich habitats are under threat.

What’s the problem?

Despite the clear importance of the rich mosaic of habitats found on Ardeer it does not have any nature designations.

A Special Development Order which was introduced in 1953 allows virtually any development to take place. This order means that activities such as sand extraction can take place in any part of the peninsula, regardless of the value of the habitats that are being lost as a result of this activity.

An iridescent dune chafer beetle found in Ardeer © Iain Hamlin

A potentially greater threat comes from the Ayrshire Growth Deal, funding which is designed to redevelop the area, which may result in inappropriate development.

We’re working in partnership with local naturalists and other leading conservation organisations to raise awareness of the importance of Ardeer for wildlife, and campaign for its future protection.  

Campaign history

  • 1871 – Alfred Nobel chooses Ardeer to be the location of an explosives factory.
  • 1953 – A Special Development Order is granted, which allows virtually any development to take place on the site without further permission.
  • January 2019 – The UK Government announces the Ayrshire Growth Deal, funding for large-scale redevelopment which may damage Ardeer’s network of habitats.
  • June 2019 – The new Scottish Planning Bill allows the amount of compensation given if the Special Development Order is revoked to be limited by Scottish Ministers.
  • August 2019 – North Ayrshire Council and the NPL Group sign a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the future development of Ardeer. This document fails to mention the area’s immense natural heritage.
  • December 2019 – The Trust, along with other leading conservation charities, calls for a Strategic Environmental Assessment to be carried out as part of any future plans for the development of Ardeer.
  • 2020 – Work begins by local naturalists, supported by the Trust, on the scientific rationale for designating the Garnock Estuary a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The estuary has formed behind the shelter of the dunes of the Ardeer Peninsula.
  • March 2022 – The Trust’s Ayrshire Group submits a response to the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework 4 to highlight its importance for biodiversity and urge against development.
  • July 2022 – The Ardeer Action Group publishes a report evidencing the importance of the Garnock Estuary for wildlife.
  • July 2022 – The Trust, as part of a coalition of local groups, wildlife experts and NGOs, sends a letter to NatureScot with an urgent request to consider designating the Garnock Estuary a SSSI for the unique habitats and species it supports.
  • August 2022 – NatureScot start the process of investigating the SSSI designation.

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