Have Your Say on the Future of the Solway Coast and the Local Marine Environment

Have your say on the future of the Solway coast and the local marine environment.

People in Dumfries and Galloway are being invited to input into discussions about potential investment in the region’s marine ecosystems, as part of the Solway Coast and Marine Project (SCAMP), an ambitious 15-year project led by Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Environment Team and the Solway Firth Partnership.

This initial engagement project will explore how coastal communities can benefit from a healthy and thriving coastal and marine environment. Getting it right for local communities and local businesses is a key priority, and a series of community engagement activities has been unveiled to give local people the opportunity to feed into the project at the earliest stage.

The SCAMP engagement is being funded through the Facility for Investment Ready Nature in Scotland (FIRNS) and will explore how private sector investment might be secured to fund the restoration of coastal and marine habitats, such as seagrass, saltmarsh, coastal woodlands and native oyster beds.

Local consultant, Barbara Chalmers, is leading the engagement discussions, which involves a series of in-person ‘Walk and Talk’ meetings led by local environmental experts, online Zoom meetings and an online survey. Speaking about the project, Barbara Chalmers said:

“Dumfries and Galloway has a huge coastline, stretching all the way from Loch Ryan in the west to the inner Solway Firth at Gretna in the east, and the coast plays an important role in the day to day lives of many of our region’s communities.

“Marine ecosystem restoration is really important in tackling climate change and the nature crisis, while also fostering sustainable economic prosperity for our coastal communities. One of the reasons I’m so pleased to be involved in this project is that this is all about getting it right for local people as well as doing good things for nature. The project is asking local people to be involved in developing a vision for coastal investment at the very earliest of stages.”

Councillor Ian Carruthers, Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy and Resources Committee welcomed the launch of the consultation. He said:

“Our region’s coastline supports hundreds of local businesses and jobs, provides leisure and tourism opportunities, contributes to the exceptional quality of life in our local communities and delivers important ecosystem services for our region.

“I’m delighted that our Council is taking the lead in prioritising speaking with local people about our local coastline at such an early stage in this project. Dumfries and Galloway is rich in natural capital investment opportunities, but it is essential that any investment in our marine ecosystem complements onshore economic and community priorities. I very much welcome these community events and encourage people across our region to take part.”

Councillor David Inglis, Vice-Chair of Economy and Resources Committee went on to say:

“This engagement presents an important opportunity for local people and local businesses to have their say on what type of investment in nature they’d like to see along the coastline of Dumfries and Galloway.

“The Solway Coast and Marine Project seeks to address carbon sequestration, biodiversity loss and the health of the commercial fishery in the Solway estuary, along with addressing infrastructure and landscape enhancement of our coastal areas. There’s a big opportunity for meaningful investment in our coastal areas, and our Council is committed to getting it right for local people and local businesses.”

Clair McFarlan, Partnership Manager of Solway Firth Partnership, welcomed the consultation, and commented:

“This is a really exciting opportunity for local people to help shape a project that could, in the decades to come, transform marine ecosystems in our region for the better. Our coastline is part of our shared natural heritage, and we should all have a stake in its future. I’m looking forward to hearing local peoples’ ideas for what natural capital investment could mean for local communities and local ecosystems, and I’d encourage everyone with an interest in our coastline to take part.”

The online survey opens today and will run till the end of January 2024. Members of the public can take part by clicking this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/solwaycoast

Online Zoom meetings take place on 4th and 5th of December, while Walk and Talk in-person meetings take place on the following dates and locations.

Stranraer: Monday 11th December

This event will be led by local expert, Nic Coombey from the Solway Firth Partnership for a walk to discover Stranraer water front. There will be opportunities to hear about plans for a Marine Research Centre, and to hear stories about the wildlife past and present in Loch Ryan, from mammoth, to seagrass, herring and oyster.

Kirkcudbright: Tuesday 12th December

This event will be led by local expert, Nic Coombey from the Solway Firth Partnership, for an easy 4km walk through Kirkcudbright down to Manxman’s Lake to hear the stories that lie behind placenames and discover why coastal habitats like merse and seagrass beds are so special.

Glencaple: Wednesday 13th December

This event will be led by Dr Larry Griffin, an expert goose and swan ecologist who specialises in tracking migratory cycles. He will be supported by Morag Walker, Project Officer with the Solway Firth Partnership.

Wigtown: Saturday 27th January

This event will be led by Andrew Bielinski, renowned bird expert, with many years working for Nature Scot before he became the South of Scotland Area Manager for RSPB, Scotland. He will be supported by Nic Coombey of the Solway Firth Partnership.

Rockcliffe and Kippford: Sunday 28th January

This event will be led by Mary Smith, Engagement Ranger for Threave and Rockcliffe Marsh Nature Reserves, supported by Clair McFarlan, Partnership Manager for the Solway Firth Partnership.

Annan: Monday 29th January

This event will be led by Alan Thomson, Development Manager for the Annan Harbour Action Group who are working to transform the harbour so that it can recover its place as a vital economic, cultural and environmental Resource for the town. Alan will be supported by Clair McFarlan, Partnership Manager of Solway Firth Partnership.

All meetings invite members of the public to consider what they want for the future of their coastline, including what investment could mean for work, skills and business. Full details and booking for all events can be found at:  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/dgc-environment-team-74978610863

An information page about the SCAMP initiative can be found on the Solway Firth Partnership website at: https://www.solwayfirthpartnership.co.uk/environment/marine-natural-capital-dumfries-and-galloway/