The Lyne Burn river restoration and greenspace improvement project is a £1.5million capital project which has created a green corridor for Dunfermline. This 2.2km stretch of urban greenspace, following the Lyne Burn, stretches from the residential neighbourhood of Touch south-west through Lyne Burn Park to Rex Park. The Lyne Burn’s course was piped and buried with soil and stone in Lyne Burn Park during the development of houses at Abbeyfield in the 1960/70s. The burn has been left buried there, being too expensive to remedy due to the volume of material needing removed. The land above is public greenspace. In Rex Park, 453m of the burn’s length which had been canalised has been restored and naturalised.

Drivers for naturalisation

Fife Council’s first Open Space Strategy in 2011 identified this project as a priority.

  • SEPA classified the Lyne Burn as a ‘heavily modified watercourse’. The EC Water Framework Directive (2000) provided the legal framework for protecting the water environment, which enabled SEPA to identify and prioritise the Lyne Burn for improvement in the 2nd River Basin Management Plan.
  • Larger and more frequent river spates were damaging the concrete walls and increasing the risk of flooding.
  • Touch and Abbeyfield are both areas of multiple deprivation; most residents in Touch live in flats, without gardens. Access to quality greenspace is important to these residents and there was scope to improve quality and access.
  • The Touch Community Action Plan prioritised improving this greenspace and reviving the derelict garden in Touch.
  • Community Placemaking around Rex Park and Lyne Burn in 2016 as part of the greenspace scotland ‘Tackling litter by repurposing greenspaces’ programme, identified elements of the environmental improvement work.

What has been delivered?

The project started in 2011 and civil engineering works to naturalise the burn were completed in February 2022. A condition of SEPA funding was that Fife Council led on a community-led greenspace and biodiversity improvement project along the green corridor.

  • 453m of watercourse has been restored. Civil engineering works removed the original linear concrete channel. The bed of the burn was widened, and a naturalised meander course created to slow the water down at times of high rainfall, and to allow the water to spread out rather than flood areas downstream within Dunfermline. Feasibility work found that the buried section of watercourse in Lyne Burn Park was too costly to remediate, mostly because of the amount of material that would need to be moved.
  • Coir matting was used along restored riverbanks, with wildflower seed (Scotia Seeds seed mix) underneath.
  • Areas of short grass amenity management were changed to long grass management, in line with the Fife-wide programme, with arisings being transported to Fife Council’s anaerobic digester.
  • Community planting of native trees, shrubs and wildflower meadows to create new habitats
  • A community tree planting programme co-ordinated by Fife Coast and Countryside Trust Conservation Officer has seen volunteers plant 2,000 trees, including 1,000 willows, grown by a local resident, along the restored burn.
  • The community can ‘adopt a tree’, reinforcing local engagement. 
  • Touch Community Garden has been rejuvenated by volunteers.
  • New cycle path created

How was it done and by whom?

The project is a partnership between Fife Council, SEPA, Fife Coast & Countryside Trust (FCCT) and the local community.

  • SEPA contributed £1million towards capital works from its Water Environment Fund, to improve the river habitat within the greenspace corridor. It undertook the hydro-morphological study to inform the river restoration preparatory studies; and contributed engineering fees and staff time. The management contract associated with the funding runs to 2024.
  • Fife Council contracted a civil engineering firm to undertake the watercourse works. Council Transport Engineers were also involved.
  • Landscape Architects Urban Pioneers produced the greenspace masterplan and costings.
  • The Council delivered the greenspace and biodiversity improvement project along the green corridor, funded through Fife Council budgets (£300,000) and the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund (£200,000). The greenspace and community engagement phase will finish in March 2024.
  • FCCT undertook initial and ongoing community engagement. This encompasses working with community groups and schools, running events and nature-based activities alongside contributing to the website and social media.
  • Dunfermline Play and Grow are a voluntary community group that have rejuvenated Touch Community Garden as part of the green corridor improvements, to provide food growing, volunteering and outdoor learning activities.
  • Community citizen science projects, like bird and butterfly surveys, are ongoing, led by the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust Conservation Officers, and by Dunfermline Grow and Play through their outdoor play schemes and weekly nature club.

Cost of the project

The project cost more than £1.5million excluding staffing, SEPA technical feasibility reports and community volunteer time. £1million was contributed by SEPA towards the river restoration works, with the associated greenspace and biodiversity improvements costing about £500,000.

Communication and engagement

Community engagement at the start, and throughout the project, was a priority. Conservation Officers employed by the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust included the project in their ongoing community engagement programme. This short video from FCCT (November 2022) brings alive the community and environmental elements of the project. 

Walking and minibus tours for elected members proved useful in gaining their understanding and support.

The works along the burn have been positively received and community resistance has been limited to a few vocal people, who reacted mainly to long grass management in a specific area. 

Benefits from the project

A more naturalised green corridor has been created, with ongoing collaboration between partners, the council and community.

Council staff report local citizens are taking more pride in their area, as evidenced through less litter, volunteer tree and bulb planting sessions, children’s outdoor activity playschemes, community gardening, and the nature club.

The Greenspace Officer noted that having a strategic approach transforms a place, not just a waterway:

“This initiative shows that having an Open Space Strategy can bring a focus to positively changing places. It was the starting point, and has brought investment, staff and a vision to improve this part of Dunfermline both environmentally and socially”


Challenges came from the complexity and high cost of the river restoration elements. Setting clear deadlines for each decision and approval stage was important to help keep all partners on track.

Ensuring the project is a priority in all relevant strategies and getting the right skills on board from the start is vital. Although there is now less local authority staff time to champion such projects than when this project started, it is still important to prioritise the time to create partnership teams and to collaborate over the long timescales required.

For information on other urban naturalised parks and greenspace projects look at Native wildflower meadows connecting Edinburgh’s coastlineDundee's biodiversity-rich meadows and grasslands and NatureScot's Wilding our Parks Case Studies.

Thanks to Kevin O’Kane, Greenspace Officer, Fife Council for providing information and assistance, and to NatureScot for funding to create this as part of a series of naturalised management case studies.