skip to main content

Green networks, greenspace and outdoor access

Scotland's outdoors, from its networks of greenspace in and around our towns to the remote and wild areas of land and water in the Highlands, provides great opportunities for open-air recreation and education. Open-air recreation and good quality, accessible greenspace are essential to our health and well-being, and are important to Scotland's economy.

Green Networks

Green Networks link together areas of natural, semi-natural and man-made open spaces (which may include leisure or recreational facilities) to create an interconnected network that provides opportunities for physical activity, increases accessibility within settlements and to the surrounding countryside while enhancing biodiversity and the quality of the external environment.

Well-planned and well-designed green networks can create attractive settings for daily life, distinctive local identities for places and can help guide future settlement growth.

Development plans set the context for clear development management decisions which will help deliver high quality green networks and protect and enhance natural heritage assets. Green Networks in Development Planning  PDF document   explains the background to green networks, their multi-functionality and provides development planning advice in respect of green networks. Planning authorities should also seek to prevent further fragmentation or isolation of habitats and identify opportunities to restore links which have been broken; Integrated Habitat Networks  PDF document can be used here alongside green networks to ensure local biodiversity is maintained and enhanced.


Greenspace  includes places like playing fields, parks, allotments, cemeteries, woodlands and open areas within and on the edge of cities, towns and villages.

Good quality, accessible urban greenspaces provide a wide range of economic, environmental and social benefits, positively contributing to the local economy, to wildlife and to people's health and well-being.

The Attitudes to greenspace in Scotland  PDF document report highlights key findings from surveys conducted between 2004 and 2013 that recorded what people felt about, and how they used greenspaces and the wider outdoors. The survey results show that the majority of people in Scotland are aware of the benefits that these spaces can bring to their physical and mental well-being and that those who regularly visit their local greenspace are more likely to feel healthy. However, a third of us do not do any outdoors physical activity and the report shows that there is a widening gap between the expectations of what our urban  greenspaces can be and what is actually provided in local communities. Based on the surveys' findings the report makes recommendations on how to develop policy and support targeted action to improve the quality of Scotland's urban greenspaces, and thereby contribute more to people's quality of life.

In urban areas greenspaces act as a green infrastructure that improves the resilience of our towns and cities in mitigating and adapting to the adverse effects of climate change. The Green Infrastructure Benefits Factsheet  PDF document highlights facts and figures relating to the potential contribution of urban green infrastructure to the quality of life of people and to the quality of the urban environment, which helps to make the case for urban greenspace.

Networks of linked, good quality greenspace (green networks) are also important for their contribution to landscape character and have a key role to play in conserving and enhancing biodiversity.

Together, they make an important contribution to a greener and healthier Scotland and should be promoted and safeguarded through  development planning and management.

Planning Authorities should take a strategic and long term approach to managing greenspace. They should assess both current and future needs through an open space audit and strategy  and protect open spaces that can help meet that need.

Outdoor access

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 established statutory access rights. Everyone can exercise these rights, provided they do so responsibly, over most land and inland water in Scotland. These rights are part of Scotland's identity, are on a par with rights available in Scandinavia and underpin our rural economy.

It is important that these rights are supported and reinforced through good planning and development. We've published a report on outdoor access and the planning system which provides advice and guidance, and details of 9 case studies.

Further information

Last updated on Monday 6th July 2015 at 08:50 AM. Click here to comment on this page