Cinders fairytale for wildlife

Levenhall Links is a biodiversity hotspot and a haven for wildlife
Levenhall Links is a biodiversity hotspot and a haven for wildlife
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IT was once a dumping ground for tonnes of industrial ash from Cockenzie Power Station.

But now a former wasteland on the Musselburgh coastline could be awarded protective status because of its wildlife.

Levenhall Links is today a biodiversity hotspot, as well as being a haven for birdwatchers, but began life as a dumpsite for pulverised ash from the nearby power plant.

Local councillor John Williamson said: “Levenhall has undergone a major transformation as it could have been left as bare black ash but is instead an asset for East Lothian.”

The 136-hectare stretch was reclaimed from the sea in the 1960s with a wall built to hive off the area for manmade lagoons to store the ash.

Council chiefs in East Lothian are now considering declaring Levenhall Links a Local Nature Reserve – a distinction only granted to sites valued for environmental, educational and leisure importance – and are canvassing public opinion.

The area’s wet and dry habitat supports a huge variety of bird life including 30 per cent of the wintering oystercatcher populations, as well as foxes and roe deer. Four-spot chaser damselflies and common darter dragonflies have also been recorded on the site.

The lagoons are classed as common land and managed by the local authority on behalf of the community. In 1985, the Order Confirmation Act was passed, which declared the land could only be used for recreational purposes.

Cllr Williamson added: “Local residents had mixed views about [reclaiming the stretch from the sea] to start with because when the lagoons were built it had the affect of changing the tides in Musselburgh – there’s now more sand on the beach than there was before.

“But it’s a great attraction for birdwatching and is also very popular with wind surfers and for sailing.”

Cllr Ruth Currie, cabinet member for community wellbeing, added: “Levenhall Links has become a significant place for people and for wildlife.

“Due to its importance for wildfowl and wading birds it was been granted special wildlife protective designations as Special Protection Area, Site of Special Scientific Interest and Ramsar site [wetland of international importance].

“We know hope to add Local Nature Reserve status.”

The status offers protection through the implementation of bylaws and management agreements.

Cllr Currie added: “The designation of Levenhall as an Local Nature Reserve would highlight the uniqueness of this special place and offer further protection to this important site.”

An exhibition providing information about Levenhall and its possible designation as an Local Nature Reserve is on display at The Pavilion Cafe in Musselburgh.

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com