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General guidance: green networks, greenspace and outdoor access

Development planning and management must promote and safeguard these aspects of our outdoors, which make for a greener, healthier Scotland.

Scotland’s great outdoors – including urban greenspace and green networks – invites us to explore. Open-air recreation not only keeps us fit and well, it’s also a big part of our nation’s economy.

Green networks:

  • connect natural, semi-natural and man-made open spaces
  • contribute to landscape character and local identity
  • promote physical activity and recreation
  • improve accessibility within settlements and to surrounding countryside
  • enhance biodiversity and the quality of the environment


  • includes playing fields, parks, allotments, cemeteries, woodlands and open areas within and on the edge of cities, towns and villages
  • benefits local economies, wildlife and people’s health and well-being
  • acts as green infrastructure in urban areas, helping towns and cities to better mitigate and adapt to climate change

Outdoor access rights:

  • were granted by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003
  • are for everyone – provided they exercise the rights responsibly
  • cover most land and inland water in Scotland
  • are part of Scotland’s identity
  • underpin our rural economy
  • are on a par with rights available in Scandinavia

Read more about types of network, including green networks.

View the extent of our urban greenspace using Scotland’s Greenspace Map.

What planners and developers must do

Planned and designed well, green networks create attractive settings for daily life, give places distinctive local identities and guide future settlement growth.

Development plans set the context for development management decisions that can help to deliver high quality green networks and enhance natural assets.

Planning authorities should try to stop habitats being fragmented or isolated further as well as find ways to restore links already broken. Integrated habitat networks can be used with green networks to maintain and enhance local biodiversity.

To manage greenspace, planning authorities should take a strategic and long-term approach. You should use an open space audit and strategy to assess current and future needs, and plan how to protect open spaces to help meet those needs.

You should also support and reinforce outdoor access rights through good planning and development.

More information and guidance

Green Networks in Development Planning – background to green networks and their functions, and related development planning advice

Integrated Habitat Networks: New Tools for Development Planning

Attitudes to greenspace in Scotland – survey findings and advice on how to develop policy and support action to improve greenspace quality

Urban Green Infrastructure Benefits Factsheets – how green infrastructure can improve quality of life and quality of urban environments

Outdoor Access and the Planning System – advice and guidance, plus nine case studies

A Brief Guide to Preparing an Outdoor Access Plan