Restoring the Back Burn

Members of the public are being encouraged to have their say on plans to restore a section of one of central Fife’s most important watercourses.

As part of the wider Leven Programme, Fife Council is working in close partnership with SEPA’s Water Environment Fund to deliver improvements to the Back Burn – specifically a 5.8km stretch between Rhind Hill in the Lomond Hills and Newton, just north of Markinch.

The Back Burn, which is also locally known as the Conland, Coul and Balbirnie Burn, has played an important role in local industries and parks and greenspaces over the years, but historic modifications have impacted on the way it functions.

However, a series of options and designs have been developed that aim to restore the river for the benefit of local people and wildlife.

backburn

Project partners are now looking to share these proposals with the local community and gather as much feedback as possible, with two drop-in events planned over the coming weeks and an online questionnaire going live on Friday, November 3.

Sarah MacDonald, project manager for Fife Coast and Countryside Trust (FCCT), which is managing the project on behalf of Fife Council, explained: “The River Leven and its burns and tributaries are a vital part of our local landscape.

“Where practical we are looking to allow them to work more naturally and one way we can do this is by removing or adapting some of the man-made changes which have had an impact over the decades.

“We are now moving into the developed design stage of the project, having carried out surveys, research and reviewed information gathered about the current state of Back Burn, and this information has been pulled together into a range of potential options for restoration work along this section of the Back Burn.

“The options have been shared with local landowners and technical stakeholders for their feedback, but we are now at the stage where we are looking to share these options with the local community and gather their thoughts on what’s proposed.”

The project area is quite large, but the most significant improvements are proposed within Coul Den Nature Reserve and Balbirnie Park.

With that in mind, two drop-in events have been arranged near both locations so people can find out more about the plans in person and speak to the project teams.

These will be held as follows:

  • Coul Den Nature Reserve: Friday, November 3, 2023 (3pm - 5pm)
  • Balbirnie Park: Monday, November 6, 2023 (1pm - 3pm)

The main consultation page highlighting the proposals can be found at www.fife.gov.uk/backburnrestoration, and a video looking at the plans in more detail is also available on the Levenmouth Reconnected YouTube channel here.

An online questionnaire will be live at https://www.fife.gov.uk/backburnsurvey on Friday, November 3, and will be open until Friday, November 24, while paper copies will also be available.

Lynda Gairns, River Restoration Specialist at SEPA said: “Restoring the Back Burn along a 4km stretch will see many environmental benefits including within the river, and habitats surrounding the river. An example of this is reconnecting the Back Burn with its original historic channel just upstream of Coul reservoir.

“The project will also benefit the local community who will enjoy improved paths, as well as a wild flower meadow and orchard.

“This work is made possible by the Water Environment Fund (WEF), which is administered by SEPA on behalf of the Scottish Government and has enabled many other rivers to be restored across Scotland.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with all partners involved in the wider Leven Programme and the local community in support of this project.”

Councillor Jan Wincott, Fife Council spokesperson for environment and climate change, added: “We are keen to engage with the community, landowners and technical specialists so that their knowledge and thoughts can be used to inform and shape the project as it progresses.

“As the project progresses, we also hope to work with local community groups and schools to undertake a range of activities to ensure that local people are involved in improving the river environment and surrounding area.

“If you are a local community group or organisation and would like to work with us, please get in touch!”

River restoration specialists JBA Consulting have been commissioned to develop options and developed designs for restoration improvements within the project area.