ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ON THE ISLE OF ARRAN
The Arran Civic Trust has a remit to conserve and promote the built and natural environments on Arran. We note with interest the efforts being made by the Arran
Economic Group to develop the island in various ways and strongly support the proposals for more affordable housing with appropriate provision, in particular in view of the existing demand for 200 more dwellings of this type. But, as a conservation body, we are concerned that both the siting and supporting infrastructure for such a large number are both adequate and sensitively considered. The island is already under considerable stress owing to RET and to its very successful promotion by VisitArran, and both residents and tourists need to be reassured that the quality of life here is not going to be further diminished by too great visitor numbers and these many extra homes.
Of particular importance are the following:
The most obvious problem currently is the condition of the roads. We are aware that the resources to deal with this on a short and medium term basis do not exist given budgetary constraints. But something will have to be done soon if wholesale reconstruction is not to become a necessity. Vehicles are being damaged, driving is becoming dangerous owing to drivers attempting to avoid the potholes and roughest surfaces and tourism will be affected by visitors’ reluctance to expose their cars to damage. Bearing in mind the considerable savings resulting from RET, we suggest that the Council looks carefully at the idea of surcharging ferry fares to pay for a rolling programme of road reconstruction, the work to be carried out over several years by private contractors.
2 CLIMATE CHANGE AND RISING SEA LEVELS
Sea levels are predicted to rise by several feet during the course of the century. Already there is severe flooding of lengths of the A841 during tidal surges, with resulting effects upon recreational facilities such as golf courses and further damage to the roads. It is essential, therefore, to forward plan for this by re-routing some stretches of road and the building of sea walls within the framework defined in the Ayrshire Shoreline Management Plan. Areas of particular concern are on the A841 between Brodick and Corrie and through the villages of Lamlash, Whiting Bay and Lochranza. It should not be assumed that, with the quickening pace of climate change, extreme events will occur only once in 200 years. Sea levels are predicted to rise much faster than that (IPCC), although Arran will be protected to some extent by continuing post-glacial ‘rebound’.
3 WASTE DISPOSAL
Rising sea levels will affect existing treatment plants, septic tanks and effluent discharges, resulting in possible pollution of beaches and the marine environment. We trust the Council is consulting regularly with SEPA over this. Of immediate concern is the increasing number of camper vans visiting the Island. According to Visit Scotland, there are only four registered camper van sites on Arran, of which only one is quality assured. It is usual to see vans parked anywhere and probable that unauthorised discharge of waste is taking place. This issue needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. We are also concerned that there is insufficient control of discharges from the Island distillery into Kilbrannan Sound.
4 HOUSING AND SETTLEMENTS
NAC has produced an excellent guide to the design of housing in rural areas, which the Civic Trust has distributed to stakeholders and individuals on its behalf. We are much concerned about the quality of some of the Council’s recent planning decisions, which contradict the advice contained in the Guide. These decisions affect, for example, approval of developments in what are called ambiguously ‘ nucleated settlements ‘, which seems to mean consent to build outwith areas shown on its own LDP. They also raise issues to do with the quality of housing which its planners appear to find acceptable. These sometimes fall far short of the design standards applied by, for example, Highland Council, most notably on Skye. We feel that NAC should enforce higher standards by conditioning that applicants for planning consent apply the principles set out clearly in its own Rural Design Guide.
5 EXTERIOR FEATURES OF THE LANDSCAPING
The quality of Arran, and therefore its appeal, lies as much in its exterior features such as walls and hard and soft landscaping as it does in its buildings. It is important therefore that the best examples of these are maintained and repaired. Many are owned privately, but the Council could emphasise the importance of this heritage by means of requests to owners, notices and exhibitions. Soft landscaping is also important, which means attention to road verges and planting on
publicly owned land. Again, private owners could be encouraged to play their part in maintenance and appropriate planting via notices and even demonstrations.
6 LIGHT POLLUTION
Despite attempts over the years, some successful, to mitigate the effects of light pollution, excessive exterior lighting of buildings and facilities is now creeping back in. Some hotels are unnecessarily floodlit and the new ferry terminal is a bright and unwelcome beacon of light at the southern end of Invercloy (Brodick). Arran is one of the few places in the country where a dark sky can be enjoyed; this feature is one of the Island’s attractions.
Much of the industry of Arran involves forestry. Until recently, it has been the policy of Forestry Commission Scotland to plant monocultures, but this has been replaced with a new approach which encourages the introduction of broad-leafed trees amongst the traditional conifers. The hope environmentally is that this will prevent the clear felling of hillsides, which has resulted in their denuding of topsoil and the creation of large amounts of brash, which can be washed into the burns and create flooding.
8 RECREATIONAL FACILITIES
Recreation areas for children are essential on a holiday island. It is essential that existing play areas, especially those equipped with swings, slides and similar are first of all not removed and secondly are safely maintained. Play areas can also make a positive contribution to the visual environment and their siting and detailing have the potential to enhance the micro-environments in which they are placed. The Trust is of the opinion that it is short-sighted to remove not only play areas but other recreational facilities such as tennis courts. Although these are not intensively used, when they are used they are much appreciated.
RET has resulted in a large increase in the number of vehicles visiting the Island. While the extra business is welcomed, these have worsened the problems of parking as well as increasing the wear and tear on the roads. Camper vans can and do park anywhere and there is inadequate provision for normal vehicles in the most attractive beauty spots around Arran such as Glen Rosa, The Civic Trust is concerned about this, but also that parking spaces should be well designed and managed, for example by neat detailing and the provision of waste bins and, in the most frequented sites, public toilets.
There are many places on Arran where poor maintenance of ground surfaces and adjacent buildings has adversely affected appearances. Taking Brodick as an example, the area round the Co-op Convenience store is in a poor state, with rotting lamp posts adjoining exposed pipe work and badly maintained tarmac. The footpath between Invercloy and the ferry on the landward side is a mess of differing surfaces. Everywhere, walls are either broken down or non-existent.
We appreciate that this is a matter of money. But pressure can be brought to bear upon owners of private property to make good where it adjoins public spaces and thoroughfares. Issuing a supplement to the Design Guide illustrating how small improvements can make a big difference would help.
Arran Civic Trust