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Natural environment

Ensure our communities, green networks and infrastructure are adaptable to a changing climate and reduce the risks and vulnerability to unavoidable impacts.

We all know that global evidence of climate change is now all around us, with more frequent and extreme adverse weather – storms, fires, heatwaves, droughts and flooding becoming regular events.


In East Ayrshire, flooding is our greatest risk. We all know the devastating effects floods can have on people in their homes, communities and businesses, which is why we’re working with our partners in the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Scottish Water and others to produce and action our Local Flood Risk Management Plan

We’re currently working on our Local Flood Risk Management Plan for 2022-28 which will also inform our new Local Development Plan, making sure that any planning decisions made take into account flood risk planning. In future we’ll plan to avoid flooding occurring in the first place. Our planning decisions will protect flood storage and conveying capacity by directing development away from flood plains and areas with medium to high flood risk. 

Through our planning policy, we will actively support the development of environmentally friendly flood prevention measures including:

  • wetland, peatland or green infrastructure creation
  • flood protection schemes, restoring natural features, enhancing flood storage capacity and avoiding the construction of new culverts
  • Natural Flood Management (NFM) (PDF 12.1Mb) techniques including crop rotation, winter planting and the use of planting, afforestation and reforestation to reduce the risk of flooding

Green infrastructure

Green infrastructure is defined as:

the use of ecosystems, green spaces and water in strategic land use planning to deliver environmental and quality of life benefits.

It includes parks, open spaces, playing fields, woodlands, wetlands, road verges, allotments and private gardens. Green infrastructure can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, natural disaster risk mitigation, protection against flooding and erosion as well as biodiversity conservation.

Considering green spaces or connections as infrastructure arises because simple things like trees, greenspaces and watercourses can provide valuable services in an ecological way. Green infrastructure gives us shelter, access and travel, sustainable urban drainage, pollution mitigation and food production – as part of a wider ecosystem.

What we’re doing

We carried out our first Our Open Space Audit and developed an Open Space Strategy in 2009. This was reviewed again in 2014 and we used the results to develop settlement by settlement action plans and prepare a vision for green infrastructure development throughout East Ayrshire. This was again in 2020.

Our audits show that at a local authority-wide level, East Ayrshire appears to have a surplus of open space. However, only 561 hectares has scored above 50% in the desired quality threshold. Our new strategy will focus on recommendations that enhance the quality of open spaces throughout East Ayrshire, improve their accessibility and integrate them into green networks. 

Open Green Spaces - Shawlands Street, Catrine Video

We're now using all this information to devise a revised Green Infrastructure Strategy for 2021-2026 which will examine the importance of green networks across a breadth of environmental, social and economic goals, linking into our Community Plan and the Local Development Plan. 

This new strategy will offer an innovative and powerful ‘tool kit’ to improve the green infrastructure and open space management within East Ayrshire and will support the development and implementation of the Community Led Action Plans and Placemaking priorities.

St Marnock Square project video

The St Marnock Square project, right in the heart of Kilmarnock, has been transformed into a multifunctional green space for all to enjoy.


In 2020 we worked with East Ayrshire Leisure to contribute to a Greenspace Scotland ParkPower project to identify the most promising green and blue space sites to provide the best opportunities for supplying low carbon heat. The project highlighted extremely promising options for using green space around public buildings and identified suitable river source heat sites on the Irvine, Ayr and Afton rivers.

It suggested there is great potential to develop low carbon heat demonstration sites for public buildings such as hospitals, schools, leisure centres and industrial settings. 

What we will do

We will:

  • develop a revised Green Infrastructure Strategy supported by “Greening Champions”
  • work with stakeholders to create demonstration projects in the areas identified in the ParkPower project


Biodiversity and nature-based solutions are critical to achieving net zero actions by 2045. Under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, all public bodies in Scotland must further the conservation of biodiversity when carrying out their functions and responsibilities. 

Our work to further biodiversity conservation is aligned with global policy and international targets to halt loss of biodiversity throughout the world. New global targets were agreed for 2020 and the Scottish Biodiversity Programme 2020 covers all aspects of biodiversity work in Scotland, providing priorities and an agreed approach to achieve targets. 

Nature conservation cannot be achieved in isolation, so here in East Ayrshire we work with all our partners to protect and enhance biodiversity. Together with East Ayrshire Leisure and East Ayrshire Woodlands we contribute to a number of partnerships including:

What is a biosphere?

The biosphere designation was awarded because of the area’s unique combination of special landscapes and wildlife areas, rich cultural heritage and communities that care about their environment and culture and want to develop it sustainably.

As an internationally recognised marketing brand for superb natural environments, UNESCO Biosphere designation offers new opportunities for individuals, businesses and communities to demonstrate how to live, work and play in a world-class environment.

What we’re all doing together

Forestry and tree planting

Within East Ayrshire our former opencast mining sites  provide great opportunities for brownfield restoration through tree planting and forestation. Working in partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) and the new landowners, we have developed a plan for the restoration of opencast sites.

Together we are all  identifying and prioritising these sites for new tree planting to rehabilitate and reintegrate these sites into local economic and social life. Across Scotland, through tree planting initiatives, this plan has already identified the potential to create more than 1,000 hectares of new woodland, using mixed native and commercial conifer species.

Greening these sites will create a wealth of benefits, contributing to the Scottish economy, increasing woodland cover, enhancing biodiversity, providing employment and improving the local landscape. It will also help to achieve our net zero ambitions, with these new forests anticipated to capture around 30 million tonnes of carbon.

More information 

Have your say

Tell us what you think by taking part in our Climate Change Strategy Consultation.

Contact Information


Council Headquarters
London Road
East Ayrshire