Plans for an Eco-Therapy Wellness Park to be built on the site of the former Barony colliery near Auchinleck have been criticised by some residents as “very destructive” to wildlife.

The proposal is a joint venture between National Pride UK Community Interest Company and IntroCrowd and is earmarked to occupy 108.8 acres on the site of the former Barony colliery.

The non-exclusive health and wellness destination will provide active health and mental relaxation facilities, comprising of a spa, exercise, craft activities and amenities including overnight accommodation.

The project will also include a path for the public to enjoy a walk along the Lugar Water, with refreshment areas included.

However, some residents have hit out at the plans, saying the project will not be good for biodiversity and will instead endanger “most of the species that currently make the site so special”.

Developers have also been accused of intending to “replant areas with exotic species and manicured lawns”.

Cumnock Chronicle:

Roger Hissett, former Ochiltree resident and member of Scottish Wildlife Trust, told the Chronicle: “It may be a very good development for the local community and economy of East Ayrshire but it’s just the wrong place for it.

“Coal mining stopped at the Barony Bing just over 30 years ago. Since then, the area has been left to re-wild and as such, it’s developed an amazing ecosystem and variety of species there.

“It’s mostly coming back as woodland, as you’d expect in this part of the world dominated by willow and birches. It’s now one of the best wildlife areas in East Ayrshire.

“It would have been so easy for the council to have said to National Pride, we like the idea, but we can suggest much better places to put it.

“Instead, they’ve let them go ahead and given them no steer of the wildlife value of the area.

“If you look at the scale of the work... then it’s going to use up the whole site. There’s no way that by tinkering with the details you can make it acceptable. It’s going to destroy the ecology of the site.”

Irene Bisset, chair of National Pride, and Andy Whitlock, co founder and technical director, hit back at the comments, calling them “lies”.

They said: “We gave these residents the opportunity to be specific with their concerns so we could address them. We invited them on a Zoom call and they declined.

“We’re spending a lot of money to ensure we enhance biodiversity on the site. ‘Eco’ means economically sustainable but ecologically friendly.

“To be a carbon sink also means creating our own micro climate. In order to do that, there is sensitive planting of trees and other species to create an oxygen rich atmosphere for clients who have certain illnesses to allow them to exercise more freely.

Cumnock Chronicle:

“The Barony is incredibly special to us. It has, over the last 30 years, been left to re-wild but unfortunately the ground itself was a barren tip nobody gave a damn about it until recently. We want to create something astonishingly beautiful. There will be no vast amounts of lawn as has been suggested.”

They continued: “We want to conduct every single conceivable survey to be aware of what’s actually there. Once we establish what is there, then we can masterplan the project to retain and enhance it.

“We’ve bent over backwards to try to educate, inform and bring these people in but they have put barriers up and said they’ll never agree with the development.

“These erroneous comments are not helpful. If they want to get in touch, we will welcome them with open arms. There are local people who have lots of knowledge so we say, please come and help us.”