Call for protection for important wildlife haven

Tuesday 26th July 2022

Local community and wildlife organisations have come together to call for one of Ayrshire’s most important wildlife sites to be protected. The groups are asking for the Garnock Estuary to be urgently designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its importance for nature, as well as growing threats from development.

The Garnock Estuary is a unique mosaic of dunes, grassland, woodlands, scrub and wetlands.  Although it has been modified by the site’s complex industrial past, it remains an incomparable haven for wildlife, including species that have been lost across much of the landscape .

A letter has been sent to the Chief Executive of Scottish Government agency NatureScot asking for the area to be given protected status. The move is supported by independent wildlife experts and former senior statutory agency officers and highlights the urgent need for designation.

A report by the Ardeer Action Group (a coalition of wildlife organisations and representatives from the local community) shows that the Garnock Estuary is of national importance for nature and home to:

  • More than 1,000 invertebrate species, including 99 species of conservation concern, and some found nowhere else in Scotland.
  • One of the best breeding bird sites on the Lower Clyde coast.
  • Dozens of rare flowering plants.
  • A unique mosaic of high-quality wildlife habitats which are listed on the Scottish Biodiversity List.

However, this rich diversity of life is under-threat from a Special Development Order dating back to 1953. This means that planning permission is not required for development and activities which would require consent almost anywhere else in Scotland.

The site is already suffering from ongoing sand extraction which is damaging its unique dune habitats. With a number of large and potentially damaging developments proposed, including housing, golf courses, and even a nuclear fusion plant, time is running out to save one of Scotland’s most fascinating wildlife sites

Iain Hamlin of the Ardeer Action Group said: “The designation of this site would help the Scottish Government and NatureScot meet their aspirations to reverse biodiversity loss and protect 30% of Scotland’s land for nature by 2030, while ensuring the residents of Irvine and Stevenston, North Ayrshire, and beyond can enjoy access to a unique, wildlife-rich and largely untamed space both now and in the future.”

Craig Macadam, Conservation Director of Buglife, said: “Biodiversity is in crisis with populations of insects and other wildlife in steep decline. Rare habitats and specialist species are becoming more and more fragmented and at risk of extinction. It is essential that we act now to protect our best remaining wildlife sites before it is too late.”

Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland said: “Protected areas have been a cornerstone of biodiversity conservation for decades and remain incredibly important as part of our response to the nature and climate emergency. Expanding these protections to cover more of Scotland’s land by designating our best areas for wildlife, like the Ardeer Peninsula, is critical alongside doing more to safeguard and improve existing areas.”

Ruchir Shah, Director of External Affairs at the Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “The Secretary General of the UN has said that “making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere”. At the Scottish Wildlife Trust, we believe that local communities and people must have agency in this vital task, which is why we are fully supportive of this locally-led call for designation and the extremely thorough and well-reasoned supporting scientific rationale they have produced. ”