Plans have emerged to build homes on a rewilded plot of land in north Edinburgh which locals are fighting to stop from being redeveloped.
The Western Harbour site was abandoned by developers around 15 years ago and has since flourished into woodland and natural pounds home to a diverse range of wildlife.
After being put up for sale by its British Virgin Islands-based owner last year, it has been the focus of a community campaign to keep it as a nature spot – arguing it is a “wonderful example of urban rewilding” and a “haven for insects, bats and waterfowl” including breeding swans and moorhens, goldeneye, herons and kingfisher.
Early proposals for a ‘residential development’ on one of the four parcels of land submitted this month have intensified concern over the future of the area which the government and city council are being urged to “recognise the value of”.
However obstacles could stand in the way of FM Developments, which is behind the new plans, including the protection of trees which the council say “contribute to the attractiveness and character of the locality”.
Officials have drawn up temporary tree preservation orders (TTPOs) which if made permanent could make building on the plot more difficult.
Save Western Harbour Ponds campaign founder Ida Maspero said she hoped the TTPOs would “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”.
And although the site remains allocated for housing by the authority, its planning blueprint for Edinburgh over the next decade, City Plan 2030, noted that “further assessment of these ponds is required given the nature of the ponds has progressed over time”.
Furthermore Scottish Government planning officers currently reviewing the Plan have visited the woodland and ponds as they consider whether the space should be officially designated as greenspace.
Local Labour councillor Katrina Faccenda said there was a “mad rush” from some developers to get plans approved in advance of City Plan 2030 being finalised.
She said: “Since the land was designated for housing, our approach to the importance of greenspace in the city has changed a lot and if you look across that part of Leith and North Edinburgh there is a real lack of greenspaces, especially wilded greenspaces, and it would just be an absolute crime to not take the advantage of the fact that nature has re-wilded that and that we actually look after it and allow it to flourish.”
Meanwhile, David Adamson from Edinburgh Natural History Society visited the plots in July and found “a thriving population of Cream-streaked ladybirds which are scarce in Scotland, a colony of Leafcutter bees, and some dragonflies,” he wrote for the Cockburn Association website this month.
“A pair of swans had raised six cygnets. The orchids were over but Sickle Medick, a plant I had never seen before, was still in flower,” he said.
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