New Local Nature Reserve at Merkinch

An area of Merkinch, Inverness is to become the only place in the Highlands to be designated as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR).

Members of The Highland Council’s Planning and Development Committee today approved the declaration of an area of Merkinch, Inverness to be designated as a LNR under Section 21 of the National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act 1949

Councillor Drew Hendry, Chairman of The Highland Council’s Planning and Development Committee signed an agreement which will designate the Westfield, Muirton Ponds and associated foreshore area of Merkinch as the only LNR in the Highlands.

Councillor Hendry said: “It gives me great pleasure to sign this agreement that creates the only LNR in the Highlands. The efforts at Merkinch by all the partners involved are a clear demonstration of how we can all work together to enhance our local environment. The Council’s administration is happy to support  an initiative that maintains and develops such an active interest in Highland’s natural heritage.”

The official designation of a Local Nature Reserve at the Merkinch area of Inverness has been made possible due to Merkinch Greenspace (formerly South Kessock Environmental Company), working together with Greeninverness, The Highland Council and British Waterways.

The vision for the only LNR in Highland is ‘to create the best Local Nature Reserve in Scotland: a place where people and biodiversity co-exist to each other’s mutual benefit’.

The total area of the site is 54.7 hectares and the steering group and the expertise it contains has been vital in developing the application for designation of the site. Various members have taken forward work to secure the agreements and information required for designation. The steering group has also been looking beyond the site’s designation and has secured funds to draft a detailed site management plan.

Chair of Merkinch Greenspace and the LNR Steering Group Ali Locke said “The designation of this LNR is not only a fantastic achievement for everyone involved in its creation, but a major boost to the Merkinch area of Inverness and the Highlands as a whole. The challenge now and in the years to come is to turn it into an area that people will enjoy visiting while maintaining its biodiversity”.

Funding support for the project has come from Scottish Natural Heritage and HIE Inverness and East Highland; this money will be used for a consultant to develop a detailed management plan, an interpretation plan and a website for the reserve and to install four boundary markers at the entrances to the reserve. The steering group has also secured enough funding to pay for a launch event.

Highland Councillor Peter Corbett has been a keen supporter of the project and is delighted to see the area designated.  He said: “A Local Nature Reserve in an urban area such as the South Kessock area of Merkinch highlights how unique this designation is.   After the collapse of the proposed waterfront centre this is a great environmental boost for the local people who transformed a dream into reality and an example of partnership working.”

Jonathan Willet, Highland Biodiversity Officer for The Highland Council said: “This designation shows the importance of this site in Merkinch and in the whole of Inverness. It demonstrates that important areas for wildlife can be found in urban areas of the Highlands. I look forward to working with the steering group to maximise the benefit of Merkinch Local Nature Reserve, for wildlife and the people of Inverness.”

Debbie Maguire the Greeninverness Officer said: “The reserve will be of great benefit to the whole community and I am sure will be widely visited by all ages, it is also the first LNR for the Highlands which is a fantastic achievement for Merkinch Greenspace.”

The designation is also the first project from the recently published City of Inverness Greenspace Strategy to be delivered. 

She added: “We have only had the adopted strategy published for one month and we are already delivering the action plan, I hope this will show people the strategy is a real working document and is making a difference to the quality of greenspace in Inverness.”

A special celebration event will be held in the Spring to mark the official launch of the new LNR but in the meantime anyone interested in helping to shape the LNR should contact Anne Sutherland at Merkinch Partnership on 01463 718989. No particular skills or experience are needed, just enthusiasm and a desire to make the site an even better place for wildlife and people.

Notes to editors:

Previously, in Highland there was an LNR designated at Munlochy Bay which lasted from 1975 to 1985. It was de-designated due to the owners not being willing to encourage the general public to access the site.

Background information on Greeninverness availble on the website:

For further information or to arrange local photograph opportunities at Merkinch please contact:

Debbie Maguire, Greeninverness Officer at the Inverness City Partnership, Town House, High Street, Inverness, IV1 1JJ, Tel: 01463 724381, Mob: 07879 667699.  Email:

Anne Sutherland, Merkinch Partnership, 4 Grant Street, Inverness.  Tel:  01463 718989.  Email:

Jonathan Willet, Highland Biodievrsity Officer, Planning and Development Service, The Highalnd Council, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness.  Tel:  01463 702274.

14 Nov 2007
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