|About the Clyde|
The Firth of Clyde Forum's area extends from the upper tidal limit of the River Clyde in Glasgow City centre, seawards to the outer firth in Argyll and Ayrshire. It includes the Mull of Kintyre, the Clyde's sea lochs, and the islands of Arran, Bute and the Cumbraes.
The characteristic ruggedness of the Firth of Clyde coast was scoured out by the movement of glaciers fed from huge ice sheets during the last Ice Age. This ice action took place relatively recently in geological history, and followed earlier periods of faulting along the highland boundary fault and southern uplands fault which created the Midland Valley. Glasgow and much of the Clyde valley and Ayrshire lies within this rift valley. With the retreat of the ice around 10,000 years ago, Western Scotland has slowly been rising, relative to sea level, as it adjusts to the removal of the ice. This process has contributed to the formation of raised beaches along parts of the Clyde coast, for example at sites in Ayrshire and Arran.
The River Clyde has long been central to the economy of this part of Scotland. Dredging of the Clyde's naturally shallow waters allowed the movement of heavy traffic up into Glasgow City centre, and facilitated the industrial boom associated with the Clyde from the 18th Century onwards. While these heavy industries have in recent years declined, the Clyde remains a vital focus for the economy, be it in supporting the fisheries industry, aquaculture, defence activities, recreation on the Clyde and along its shores, and in providing a quality of environment desired by the new light manufacturing and service industries. It is also an important recreational and cultural resource for the many hundreds of thousands of people who live around its shores.
The Clyde supports a rich and varied wildlife. It is important as one of the most northerly west coast estuaries used by migrating birds, and regularly supports a wintering population of 20,000 waterfowl in the inner estuary, including internationally important numbers of overwintering redshank. For these reasons the Inner Clyde Estuary has been notified as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the EC Wild Birds Directive. The birds of the estuary feed on the eelgrass, mussel beds, and on the abundant invertebrate fauna of the intertidal mudflats, sandflats and saltmarsh. Other important wildlife sites within the Firth of Clyde include Ailsa Craig SPA designated for its gannet population, and a number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) around the coast, and on the islands of Arran, Bute and Great Cumbrae.
There are 7 local authorities with responsibility for planning the future development of the Firth of Clyde area. These are Glasgow City Council, Argyll and Bute Council, Renfrewshire Council, West Dunbartonshire Council, Inverclyde Council, North Ayrshire Council and South Ayrshire Council. Since local government reorganisation in 1996 the strategic overview previously taken by Strathclyde Regional Council no longer exists. Consequently, North and South Ayrshire Councils come together to prepare their strategic plan for the 2 council areas (the Ayrshire Joint Structure Plan) and the others listed above (except Argyll and Bute Council) have a similar joint strategic plan - the Glasgow and Clyde Valley Structure Plan. Argyll and Bute Council is preparing its own Structure Plan.
One important function of the Forum is to provide a framework in which the 7 authorities can look strategically at how the whole Firth of Clyde is managed.