Edinburgh residents launch campaign to save 'wildlife haven' Western Harbour ponds from development

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Edinburgh residents battle to save wildlife ‘haven’ from development

‘Horrified’ Edinburgh residents are fighting plans to destroy ponds which are a ‘haven’ for wildlife and locals.

The plot of land near the abandoned lighthouse at Western Harbour, Newhaven, had been earmarked for development 20 years ago – but the project was abandoned around the time of the 2008 financial crash. It allowed wetlands to form and the sites to bloom with a myriad of urban wildlife, from a family of swans to ducks, herons, swifts and kingfishers, and providing a peaceful sanctuary for residents in the high rise flats nearby.

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But now the land is up for sale again and it is understood to be under offer to developers. In response, locals have launched a campaign called Save Western Harbour Ponds, and a petition now has more than 2,300 signatures.

Residents are rallying to save a 'wildlife haven' in Edinburgh's Western HarbourResidents are rallying to save a 'wildlife haven' in Edinburgh's Western Harbour
Residents are rallying to save a 'wildlife haven' in Edinburgh's Western Harbour

Ida Maspero, who first created the campaign as Facebook group Save Western Harbour Ponds, said: “I was quite horrified when I realised it was going to be developed. Like many, I assumed it was a park. It’s amazing how they have become a lovely example of urban rewilding, nature being left to do its own thing. It’s a wonderful haven for wildlife, it’s really special.

"A lot of people have become very fond of the lots. It was a lifeline to people in those flats during the pandemic, it’s really given people that connection with nature. It’s come as a shock to a lot of people that it could just disappear, be bulldozed overnight.”

Campaigners are calling on Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Government to recognise the unique value of this coastal wetland habitat for nature and for people, and to help save it from development. They are also calling on the landowner to ‘consider and recognise the value of this rewilded land beyond simply being plots for development’, and to enter into dialogue with the community about its future.

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The group was ‘thrilled’ to learn a temporary tree preservation order has been issued for a number of trees on the site, which the council said ‘contribute to the attractiveness and character of the locality’. They are now urging people to comment on the order in the hope it can be made permanent. While 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.

Pond campaigners at Western Harbour in EdinburghPond campaigners at Western Harbour in Edinburgh
Pond campaigners at Western Harbour in Edinburgh

Meanwhile, the Edinburgh Nature Network – which is led by various organisations including the Scottish Wildlife Trust – has backed protecting the ponds. The partnership said the wetland habitat ‘provides an important home to a range of wildlife’ and called for it to be ‘retained and enhanced’.

The council is accepting comments on the tree preservation order until Thursday, July 13, which can be submitted by emailing [email protected]

Additional reporting by Donald Turvill, LDR