Globally and nationally biodiversity is in decline. The draft Scottish Biodiversity Strategy sets out a clear ambition for Scotland to be Nature Positive by 2030 and to have restored and regenerated biodiversity across the country by 2045. Within the strategy the Scottish Government sets out priority actions for 2030, including the following action “ensure that every local authority area has a nature network improving ecological connectivity across Scotland”. 

'Nature Networks East Lothian' is a project developed by the local authority to identify, provide advice on and deliver nature network opportunities in suitable areas of parks and green spaces across East Lothian’s towns and villages. The project also aligns with the new national planning guidance (NPF4), contributing to wider local and national policy priorities including tackling climate change; improving health and wellbeing; and tackling inequalities.


In 2021 East Lothian Council received £109,000 from the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund (NRF) (provided to local authorities to support new or enhance existing approaches to restoring biodiversity). This funding was used to support a grassland habitat restoration project to restore, manage grassland and support pollinators at various sites including Levenhall Links, Longniddry Bents, Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve, Gullane Bents, Yellowcraig turf nursery and Whitesands / Barns Ness, which are all owned or managed by the council.

This year East Lothian Council was successful in securing £23,865 funding for 'Improving Nature Networks for East Lothian’s Communities' from the Nature Restoration in Parks funding. The fund is managed by greenspace scotland for the Scottish Government using part of the Scottish allocation of the UK Government’s Levelling Up Parks fund from 2022-23. 

Community consultation and evaluation

The funding enabled the Council to employ a Graduate Intern for four months and their month-long public consultation survey, held on CitizenSpace, was launched in June 23. Leaflets were published and the survey was shared with community members, organisations and groups, including local Area Partnerships, Connected Community Managers and Community Councils. 370 responses with 455 additional comments and suggestions about the project enabled the identification of Council actions to progress and develop nature networks across East Lothian’s communities. The council also evaluated past re-wilding activities with the knowledge and expertise from Amenity Services Operatives. A total of 27 parks and greenspaces across East Lothian were identified for potential nature network development and biodiversity enhancement.

The results of the community consultation showed support for existing natural habitat areas as well as for more biodiversity within parks and greenspaces. Among the key findings of the report was the strength of feeling regarding greenspaces: 92% of survey respondents felt strongly that local parks and greenspaces were important to them; 89% of respondents strongly agreed that nature is important to them; 88% of respondents use East Lothian’s parks and greenspaces to get outdoors and 75% use them to be close to nature; 81% of respondents strongly agreed that they wanted to see more nature and biodiversity enhancement across East Lothian’s parks and greenspaces.

Across all the East Lothian parks and greenspaces listed within the survey, the top 5 habitat types that respondents want more of are:​

  • Pollinator friendly planting (87%)
  • Meadows​ (84%)
  • Tree planting (82%)
  • Hedgerows (79%)
  • Naturalised longer grassland (73%)

The Council responded to the survey with ‘quick-win actions’ which the project capital funding enabled to purchase wildflower seed mixes and native trees for autumn planting in parks and green spaces. The council also produced onsite signage to inform the public about nature network enhancements underway in parks and green spaces.

East Lothian Council's Cabinet spokesperson for Community Wellbeing, Councillor Colin McGinn, said:

It’s extremely encouraging to know that people do want to see nature networks developed, extended and enhanced in suitable sites across East Lothian and practical work for this has already started.

Action Plan and learning outcomes

The outcome of the community consultation and review of previous Nature Network activities informed the action plan which will be delivered over the coming years. It aims to create nature networks that ensure habitat connectivity, are ecologically meaningful, support community, health and wellbeing, and create resilience and adaptation to climate change. The project also highlighted that Amenity Operatives need support and guidance to deliver nature networks on the ground. Ongoing community engagement will be key to ensuring the project’s success and developing opportunities for community involvement in delivery of nature networks is also hugely important.

The actions set out in the Improving Nature Networks for East Lothian’s Communities Action Plan are categorised under the following objectives: 

  • Create: Creating new areas of habitat in our parks and greenspaces.
  • Restore: Repairing or renewing areas of habitat that may have been subjected to land changes that could be restored to their past condition.
  • Enhance: Improving the quality of current networks through better/alternative habitat management in our parks and greenspaces. 
  • Connect: Connecting habitats to ensure continuous networks of vital habitats and connecting people with nature. Enhancing connections between sites through physical corridors, or through ‘stepping stones’, as well as working in partnership with private landowners, local community groups, organisations or community members to extend nature networks to other greenspace opportunities.

The results and outcomes of this nature networks project will also inform the objectives of the next East Lothian Council Local Biodiversity Action Plan, Open Space Strategy and Local Development Plan. 

Councillor Colin McGinn also stated:

We see this project as an important stage in a longer-term aspiration to further develop connected Nature Networks across East Lothian which will help us to tackle the climate and nature emergencies

It is hoped that delivering these actions in Council owned and managed greenspaces will encourage others across the county to develop and enhance nature networks on their land, bringing a connected green network to East Lothian and beyond.