Edinburgh is the first city in Scotland to have developed a city-wide Nature Network.  Edinburgh Nature Network (ENN) is a mapping of interconnected habitats to show what, where and how to improve these habitats and their interconnections to benefit people, nature and climate change adaption. The vision is landscape-scale urban nature restoration that all in the city can understand and contribute to.


From strategic mapping to delivery

A 2023 grant from the Levelling Up Parks Fund managed on behalf of the Scottish Government by greenspace scotland, allowed the City of Edinburgh Council to progress Linking Leith's Parks, the first pilot Edinburgh Nature Network project - taking the mapping and vision towards practical delivery.

Delivered by Edinburgh's Thriving Green Spaces Project partnership, and led by the City of Edinburgh Council, the Levelling Up Parks funds have helped the partnership to:

  • develop a spatial plan across Leith to connect the neighbourhood of parks through habitat and pollinator corridors consistent with the ecology in each park.

  • with landscape architects from AtkinsRealis, create six individual park designs and planting schedules to benefit people and wildlife. The six parks are Tolbooth Wynd, Mill Lane Park, Taylor Gardens, Keddie Gardens, North Junction Street Park and Dalmeny Street Park. There are 11 parks in the Leith area; two already have a masterplan, three have biodiversity measures already underway.

  • plant the first 'Wilding Wee Space' on Leith Links. Community planting sessions with two local Primary Schools saw 10 native trees and an area of wildflower meadow planted. There have been further sessions with staff and pupils to monitor the site for species and biodiversity. The Wilding Wee Spaces programme aims to provide all Edinburgh schools with an area of ground for wilding.

  • create educational materials and signage for the 'Wee Wilding Space' with Hillside Agency as the first part of Edinburgh Nature Networks communications.

Community co-design

Online and in person workshops were held with the local community to gather views and ideas on the initial concept designs for the six parks and then follow-up workshops took place to agree final designs. Examples of aspects incorporated as a result of this process include community planting beds, lighting to address park safety, location of wildflower meadows agreed to take account of areas commonly used for community sports, and siting performance areas adjacent to local arts organisations.

The team attended community events, meetings and celebrations already in the calendar of partners and local groups. The Leith Police Box on Leith Road was rented to promote the project and workshops.

A Leith Links Working Group was already established through earlier Leith Links masterplan work. Supporting the work of a Friends Group for each of the six parks, or possibly a joint Friends of Leith Parks Group, is underway.   

Biodiversity Net Gain assessments

The designs of four of the six parks also underwent a Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) assessment. This is a measure of biodiversity gain post development, and assumes a 30-year period of maintenance and management. The net biodiversity gain in the four parks ranged from 3.84% to 66.37%.

BNG assessments are statutory in England within planning law to ensure that developments not only mitigate against a loss in biodiversity but also actively contribute to an overall gain. For developers, a BNG target must reach a minimum of 10%. It is not yet a requirement in Scotland, (although many developers do commission assessments), and Linking Leith’s Parks felt it important to be able to illustrate and monitor biodiversity improvements across the delivery of the Edinburgh Nature Network.

Why start in Leith?

The development stage of the Edinburgh Nature Network saw over 200 actions identified city-wide to create the network. Leith was chosen as the pilot area for delivery due to having the highest population in the city, alongside the highest need for ecosystem services – so there was an opportunity to make a big difference. Leith also contains the most deprived part of the city, amongst the most deprived 15 datazones in the whole Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation;  it was important to look at improving greenspace where it was most needed.

Next steps

The six park plans will be used to source the capital for delivery. This project template will also be used to progress other areas of the Edinburgh Nature Network as resources allow.

The pioneering progress to date shows the benefit of partnership work as well as the need for local authorities to lever in additional funds, both of which are all the more effective when long term strategic aims are well researched, co-created, evidenced and monitored.

The City of Edinburgh Council has worked with many partners across all stages of the ENN journey. Scottish Wildlife Trust have been a a lead partner, working on the initial network development with the University of Edinburgh and then developing the monitoring and evaluation framework for the Edinburgh Nature Network. 

Other partners have been Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust, Edinburgh Green Spaces Forum (umbrella group for Edinburgh’s friends of parks groups), Leith Links working group, National Trust for Scotland, GroundsWell (a universities' research consortium investigating the effect of greenspace on user wellbeing), TCV, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, greenspace scotland, Edinburgh Leisure, and Leith Connections. The project also cuts across many teams within the Council itself.

Funding has come from Future Parks Accelerator (National Lottery Heritage fund and the National Trust), Levelling Up Parks Fund (UK and Scottish Governments), One Million Trees (Woodland Trust and City of Edinburgh Council) as well as funds from various Council budgets.

See greenspace scotland's earlier Project of the Month (2020) describing the initial consultation and mapping work of Edinburgh Thriving Green Spaces which fed into the Edinburgh Nature Network. 

Linking Leith's Parks is one of 11 projects supported by greenspace scotland with funding from the Scottish Government/UK Government Levelling Up Parks programme. Other case studies from this programme are Nature Networks East Lothian, Working for Mega Flora across North Lanarkshire, Nature networks across Falkirk - Spaces for Nature Action Plan and Aberdeen Flagship Parks for Pollinators.

Thanks to Alexandra Hoadley, Greenspace Development Officer (Ecology), City of Edinburgh Council for providing information and help with this article.