Edinburgh residents fighting to prevent the development of land home to three “precious” natural ponds have been given new hope, as the council moves to introduce new protections for trees on the site.
The Western Harbour plots became re-wilded after construction projects were abandoned in the wake of the last financial crash and the large pools, since formed in half-dug building foundations now support a “diverse” range of wildlife including around 60 bird species.
Locals feared it could all be lost after the land went up for sale last year, and a campaign was launched to secure its future – with a petition reaching more than 2,000 signatures.
Plans are also being explored to market the land as a “green investment opportunity” for a new biodiversity scheme.
The group determined to save the “precious greenspace” said they were “thrilled” to learn a temporary tree preservation order has now been issued for a collection of trees on the site which the council said “contribute to the attractiveness and character of the locality”.
People are being invited to comment on the order to help officials determine whether it should be made permanent. Whilst not solely preventing any development from going ahead, this would make removing trees around the ponds more difficult as it would require special consent from planners.
Western Harbour residents told the Local Democracy Reporting Service in December the area had become “really special” and “better for birds than it ever was,” providing benefits for wildlife and a place for locals to escape busy city life.
And although preserving trees will create an extra obstacle for any prospective developers seeking to build there, the site remains earmarked for new housing in the council’s latest local development plan.
However in submitting ‘City Plan 2030’ to the Scottish Government for approval the council said that “further assessment of these ponds is required given the nature of the ponds has progressed over time”.
Furthermore the Edinburgh Nature Network – which is led by various organisations including the council and Scottish Wildlife Trust – has backed protecting the ponds.
The partnership which works to “improve the ecosystem health of Edinburgh” said the wetland habitat “provides an important home to a range of wildlife” and called for it to be “retained and enhanced”.
Save Western Harbour Ponds campaign founder Ida Maspero said: “We were thrilled to learn in mid-June that a tree preservation order has been granted for the ponds site at Western Harbour, thanks to the research and hard work of one of our campaign supporters, Eric Maclennan.
“Hopefully it will help raise awareness of the biodiversity of the site, and help us in our fight to secure the future of the ponds as a precious greenspace for nature and people.”
The council is accepting comments on the order until Thursday which can be submitted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.