Call to save former East Ayrshire colliery reclaimed by nature

Wednesday 29th November 2023

Wildlife and environmental charities have expressed their disappointment that proposals for an ‘eco-wellness park’ on an important wildlife site in East Ayrshire have been resubmitted- just months after it was refused permission.

The proposals at the Barony Colliery would see the loss of a rich mosaic of grassland, scrub, and woodland that have reclaimed the former colliery site, forming what is referred to as ‘Open Mosaic Habitat on Previously Developed Land’. This wildlife haven, which sits in the shadow of the historic Barony A Frame, is home to important local wildlife including Bee Orchid, woodland birds such as Redstart and the Dingy Skipper butterfly. The developer’s own surveys suggest it has invertebrate populations of Site of Special Scientific Interest quality- the best of our wildlife sites. Buglife Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation and local wildlife experts say it is all thanks to the site’s industrial past and lack of management, its varied underlying soils, nutrients and topography have created the perfect conditions for wildlife to thrive.

Following the decision of East Ayrshire Council to refuse permission in February, a similar application has been submitted for 200 lodges, communal social and private function buildings, a spa, pool and gym facilities – which wildlife experts say does little to address their concerns. The development would lead to the permanent loss of wildlife-rich habitats, with much of what is left impacted by visitor use, disturbance by noise and light and have disastrous consequences for species that are priorities for conservation in Scotland. Wildlife experts are saying that the Barony Colliery, is simply the wrong place for an eco-wellness park.

Andrew Ramsey, Scotland Manager at Buglife Scotland said, “It is disappointing to see these proposals come forward again, without addressing our fundamental concerns. Barony Colliery is home to important populations of invertebrates and should be protected, not subjected to constant development threats. We cannot meet our ambitious 30 x 30 targets if we do not protect what we already have.

Bruce Wilson, Head of Policy at the Scottish Wildlife Trust said, “We are in the midst of a nature and climate crisis and the Scottish Government has a very ambitious, but necessary, target of reversing declines in biodiversity by 2030. Building on our best remaining wildlife sites is completely incompatible with this target. The applicant’s own surveys show how important the Barony Colliery is for local wildlife, but what they are suggesting would leave the site degraded and our local wildlife poorer. We hope that East Ayrshire Council again stands up for wildlife and refuses this application.

Scott Donaldson, Co-chair of the Butterfly Conservation Glasgow and SW Scotland Branch, said, “This site has an amazing variety of unusual & specialist habitats. These have their own related specialist & rare species that can’t simply move on to the next field if the site is razed to the ground for development, as apparently is the plan. We were all amazed that the site didn’t already have a listing or any protection against it. It seems that there is very little “eco” in this ‘eco-therapy wellness park’ application.

The planning application is currently being considered by East Ayrshire Council, with a decision expected to be made by January 2024.

Main Image Credit: Barony Colliery © Michael Howes