COMMUNITY councillors in Ochiltree have added their voice to concerns over plans for an ‘eco therapy wellness park’ near the former Barony colliery.

Ochiltree and Skares Community Council (OSCC) is the latest organisation to air its fears over developer National Pride’s revised plans for the site, between Ochiltree and Auchinleck.

They say they cannot support the outline planning application – which National Pride describes as “what  is proposed to be the first true nature-based wellbeing destination in Europe” - unless East Ayrshire Council (EAC) can satisfy itself over a number of aspects of the developer’s proposals.

National Pride’s plans include accommodation units, a reception building and facilities for wellness therapy, education and leisure use on land next to the former colliery site, in the shadow of the ‘A Frame’ which once housed the colliery's mining gear - and which still stands as a monument to those who worked at the coal mine.

The company lodged a new application for ‘planning permission in principle’ (PPP) after a previous set of outline plans were refused by EAC’s planning committee earlier this year.

But OSCC says it cannot support the proposals unless a range of questions are answered to the satisfaction of council officials.

In their submission to the council’s planning department, OSCC say: “Whilst understanding the possible economic advantages to the area, [we] also note there are significant concerns relating to the scale of the development and its subsequent impact on the nature conservation and amenity value of the site.”

Conservation charities Buglife Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust have also objected, as have five members of the public, though Auchinleck Community Council has written, not to the council but to National Pride itself, to voice its support for the application.

OSCC says it will not be in favour of the application until planning officers at EAC are satisfied on a number of issues:

· that the proposal meets all the requirements of the East Ayrshire Council development planning assessment and provides details of how the developers propose to meet the requirements;

- that adequate information on the suitability of this site for development is provided, as recommended by the Dalgleish Associates geotechnical observations of October 2023;

- that due regard is paid to the detailed responses from the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Bug Life relating to biodiversity issues which, in summary, maintain that the biological integrity of the site would be severely compromised if the current plans were implemented. They point out that the 'indicative plans' totally lack detail regarding mitigation. We would require that this detail is made available.

The OSCC statement adds: “If this application is passed, to achieve our support Ochiltree & Skares Community Council would require a condition that access and use of the pathway from Ochiltree to the A Frame and to Dumfries House, recently completed by the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership, would be open and free to use for all.”

Campaigners opposing National Pride’s plans recently said that a 2020 report on the project’s environmental impact proves that the site needs to be protected.

A National Pride spokesperson said: “We noted with interest the response from Ochiltree and Skares Community Council.

"It should be clear that this is not an objection, but that community council is not in favour of supporting this application until East Ayrshire Council planning are satisfied on a number of issues. The council will of course provide this in its response to the application, which we are waiting for.

“These concerns include the issue of environmental impacts, and in this respect, we have responded to the community council with the response from NatureScot.

Formerly Scottish Natural Heritage, they do not object and actually support all the findings of the submitted ecology reports and our approach to the site.

"The response notes that if the site is permitted to continue to develop into woodland over time, then grassland habitats critical for many of the rare and notable insect and plant species would be lost to scrub encroachment.

“The application had received strong backing from local organisations including Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce, Auchinleck Community Council and Auchinleck Community Development Initiative (ACDI).”