PLANS for a new £60 million 'eco therapy wellness park' near the former Barony colliery have split opinion among community groups.

Surveys to support the application have also been described as ‘confusing’ by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) - which has submitted a ‘holding objection’ to the application.

The site sits almost halfway between Auchinleck and Ochiltree.

Auchinleck Community Council (ACC) last month gave their unanimous approval to the proposals, which have sparked a row between wildlife campaigners and the developers, National Pride, over rare species and habitats on the old colliery site.

ACC also backed National Pride's original outline application for the site - before it was narrowly rejected by East Ayrshire councillors earlier this year.

READ MORE: Barony eco-therapy park developers deny plan to clear site in East Ayrshire

However, Ochiltree and Skares Community Council (OSCC) members say they will not support the proposal unless and until they get assurances over a number of issues, including recommendations made by other bodies, such as the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Buglife.

In its submission to the planning application, the community council states: “Ochiltree & Skares Community Council, whilst understanding the possible economic advantages to the area, 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. ”

The group says the application will have to meet all of the requirements of planners, would require more adequate information of on the suitability of the site, and that the developers would have to pay ‘due regard’ to the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Buglife regarding their concerns that the ‘biological integrity of the site would be severely compromised if the current plans were implemented”.

OSCC also pointed to the two nature groups' view that the "indicative plans totally lack detail regarding mitigation", and have asked for this detail to be made available.

READ MORE: Scottish Wildlife Trust against wellness park plans

They also want assurances that, if passed, the development would allow access to the path from the village to the Barony A Frame and Dumfries House, recently completed by the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership, and would be open and free to use for all.

SEPA's holding objection requires the developers to provide more information around flood risk.

The environmental watchdog raised issues relating to ‘groundwater dependent terrestrial ecosystems’ (GWDTEs) and private water supplies.

They point to conflicting evidence across a number of habitat surveys carried out on behalf of the developer.

The information is used to determine whether planned buildings and roads will affect the ecosystems.

However, they say that there is conflicting information, such as one survey identifying wet woodland habitats that are not identified in another.

Their response states: “To be presented two surveys with conflicting information in an EIA is confusing.

“It is either one or the other, perhaps both are present and a further survey (or explanation) is required to ascertain if this is the case.”

SEPA also state that the developers will need to ensure there is no development within any flood risk areas of the site.

When approached previously for comment on OSCC's representation, 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 officials 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).”