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Ayrshire SDO blights brownfield prospects

Words: Roger Milne
Ardeer Peninsula / Raibeart MacAoidh

The planning status of a major brownfield site on the west coast of Scotland is hampering proposals for the location to play a significant role in an emerging growth deal.

North Ayrshire Council is in talks with the Scottish Government over the future of the Ardeer peninsula, which, at  623 hectares in size, makes it the largest brownfield site in North Ayrshire and one of the largest in Scotland.

The area is covered by a Special Development Order approved by the government in the 1950s to allow the building of a huge explosives factory, now abandoned. Following the closure of most industrial activity on the peninsula the area has become a mecca for wildlife.

North Ayrshire wants the order revoked. In a statement sent to The Planner, the council explained that it is “actively working with partners and both the UK and Scottish Government to secure new investment to develop our coast through the Ayrshire Growth Deal. Ardeer is an area that can play a key part in helping us realise our ambitious plans”.

“The order has been in place since 1953 and clearly things have changed since then. Ideally, we would like to see our vision for the site achieved through a voluntary revocation of the order, backed by legislation and a shared vision for the future of Ardeer.

“While we cannot offer any guarantees, we are actively speaking with landowners and the Scottish Government to see how we can move this forward.

“As it stands, however, the order remains valid but anyone looking to develop on the site would be advised to obtain a Certificate of Lawful Use or Development from North Ayrshire Council.”

A council spokesperson added: “We appreciate and understand the concerns and competing pressures on the site but firmly believe that with the right regulatory framework and new investment that the site does have good potential.”

Scottish Natural Heritage told The Planner that there were no plans to designate the area as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). Local members of the Scottish Wildlife Trust believe the site is “of SSSI quality”.

However, Scottish Natural Heritage area officer Graeme Walker argued that it should be possible to find a form of development that allows the biodiversity that has flourished since the explosives factory was abandoned to continue.

The issues have been raised recently in the Scottish Parliament where planning minister Kevin Steward acknowledged the “unusual circumstances” of the SDO.

Image credit | Raibeart MacAoidh