Wildlife sanctuary bid for wasteland stalls

Plans to create a new protected bird sanctuary are under threat. Picture: contributed
Plans to create a new protected bird sanctuary are under threat. Picture: contributed
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Wildlife lovers are spitting feathers over stalled plans to create a new protected bird sanctuary in the shadow of a former power station.

Levenhall Links, a former wasteland on the Musselburgh coastline, was set to receive protective status because of its wildlife, but the plans have ground to a halt.

East Lothian Council is embroiled in a “protracted dialogue” with ScottishPower over the plans amid fears the delay could see “inappropriate developments” built on the land.

Declaring the site a Local Nature Reserve ensures the land will be primarily used for conservation and educational purposes and safeguards against inappropriate development.

Once a dumping ground for tonnes of industrial ash from Cockenzie Power Station, Levenhall Links is now one of the country’s top bird watching sites.

The area’s wet and dry habitat supports a huge variety of bird life, including 30 per cent of the wintering oystercatcher population, as well as foxes and roe deer.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said she had been trying for weeks to get an update on progress at the site from ScottishPower, with no response. She said: “In my view ScottishPower and East Lothian Council are failing to keep people informed and clearly don’t regard it as the priority it should be.

“I’m concerned that it seems so difficult to get any sort of information on what’s going on. It’s one of the premier bird-watching sites in the east of Scotland.

“Making their links a nature reserve would be a huge benefit to wildlife, residents and the local economy as it would bring people to the area. I want to know what’s behind the delay.”

The lagoons are classed as common land and managed by the local authority on behalf of the 
community.

A spokesman for East Lothian Council said the site was already afforded protection from development through its status as a Site of Special 
Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Area (SPA).

He said: “We are aware of some concern being expressed that the progress appears to have halted, but the designation of Levenhall Links as a Local Nature Reserve is tied up with wider discussions between East Lothian Council and ScottishPower over the future of the power station at Cockenzie.”

The Scottish Government’s vision for East Lothian suggests Cockenzie’s future may still lie in generating electricity, but a report also highlights its potential for “port-related development”.

A ScottishPower spokesman said the company had worked closely with East Lothian Council to transform the lagoon areas into wader scrapes, meadow and woodland areas, and a boating pond.

He added: “It is our intention to build on the good work that has already taken place and positive discussions continue with East Lothian Council, SEPA and SNH on agreeing the restoration proposals.”

Species are all a flutter

1. Oystercatcher: A striking, large wading bird which breeds off the UK coastline and eats cockles.

2. Grey seal: The largest breeding seals found in the UK, grey seals come ashore on rocky shores and beaches but can also be seen swimming out at sea.

3. Common goldeneye: A medium-sized diving duck. It first nested in Scotland in 1970.

4. Velvet scoter duck: A black sea duck. This species does not breed in the UK, but is a winter visitor to the east coast of Scotland.

5. Four-spot chaser damselfly: Similar to dragonflies, damselflies are common by lowland ponds and at small lakes.