Siccar Point – an update

Since we were alerted to the planning application to install a factory effluent pipe next to Siccar Point 10 days ago, the proposal has attracted world-wide attention and hundreds of objections. Part of the reason for this concern has been a lack of information about what will really happen if this pipeline is built. I hope this brief update will help. If any of the facts are wrong, please contact me and I will correct them.

SICCAR POINT is a unique geological locality, well described elsewhere. It deserves the highest level of protection. The rocks of the Point itself will not be directly affected by the proposal to install a waste pipeline just 200 metres away, outside the boundary of the protected site. However we are highly concerned about potential indirect effects.

DRYSDALES, the company making the planning application, have been a friend of Siccar Point, helping visiting parties over the years and funding recent development of a small carpark. From my personal observation, and reports of others, they currently seem to have a very efficient way of dealing with their solid waste and waste water, including a reed bed. The burn (small stream) they discharge into has appeared clean every time I have seen it. It is suggested that the drive behind this application is a desire to physically expand the factory, and that Drysdales can’t buy adjacent land. So they are intending to build on the reed beds and change the way they deal with their waste. The planning application doesn’t include any of this detail, nor does it need to at this stage. However Drysdales could certainly help by being more upfront with information and explaining why they need to change their waste disposal arrangements.

The SCOTTISH ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY have been criticised for a lack of response to the question about what will be discharged into the sea. They do not seem to have made public that the reason they are not responding a great deal at this stage is because, if planning permission is granted, there will be a separate application for a discharge licence, at which time they will put constraints on the design of the pipeline and the level of treatment and filtration that will be required to protect the environment. That is their job.

SCOTTISH NATURAL HERITAGE have also been criticised for not responding more forcefully to protect the unique environment around Siccar Point. Their comments have been restricted to the Site of Special Scientific Interest, and they can see no direct threat to the integrity of these famous rocks. There seems to be a disjoint between what staff can comment on, and the corporate speak of SNH that its purpose is to “promote care for and improvement of the natural heritage” (defined as wildlife, habitats, landscapes and natural beauty). The natural beauty of the coastline at this site will be affected by the pipeline, but SNH is not commenting on this. They should do.

The BRITISH GEOLOGICAL SURVEY has now been asked to comment on this proposal, and I hope they will give consideration to the unique geological character of the coast on either side of Siccar Point, as described in the Geological Conservation Review. I think they will also have good advice about the problems associated with installing a pipeline down a steep unstable slope.

The SAVE SICCAR POINT website is run by a local resident. I have met him this week, and believe he has a genuine concern about this planning application not driven by any personal interest beyond what is stated on the website. I understand he has the support of other local people, including neighbouring farmers. His website raises concerns about the danger to Siccar Point and the environment, and he is working incredibly hard to raise awareness of a plan that was going to sail through the planning process with barely a murmur. The website is being updated as new information arises, and he was very responsive when I pointed out minor geological errors.

In summary, we at the Scottish Geodiversity Forum are still very concerned about this planning application, and will be submitting a more detailed objection to it in the next few days. It is unfortunate that there is uncertainty about when a decision about the planning application will be made. The Assistant Planning Officer dealing with the application is now on holiday for two weeks, so it seems likely there is still time for considered responses to be submitted online and by email – the savesiccarpoint.co.uk website has information about how to do this.

Angus Miller, Chair, Scottish Geodiversity Forum

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