FOUR community projects across East Ayrshire have been awarded funding to help restore and rejuvenate areas of land impacted by opencast coal mining.

As part of the funding boost, East Ayrshire Council has received £242,000 for Lugar Walk improvements and a range of small environmental projects. 

The East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative (EACEI) has also been granted a total of almost £185,000 for its People and Pollinators Project and Netherton Peatland Restoration Project.

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Additional funding for a series of smaller environmental projects has also been awarded and will go towards creating a community garden in Patna, a community garden and allotment space in Muirkirk, and improving the burn in Drongan which is currently prone to flooding. 

The funding was donated by Scottish Mines Restoration Trust (SMRT), which was originally formed in 2013 to restore areas of opencast land left abandoned in East Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire and Fife, following the demise of major coal mining firms.

Councillor Graham Barton, cabinet member for planning, property and environment at East Ayrshire Council, said: “We’ve been carrying out various improvement works to the Lugar Walk for some years now and this funding will allow us to continue this work and further extend the walk. 

"The main goal is to increase accessibility so a wider range of users can enjoy the trail. 

“At the moment, some parts of the path are completely overgrown and inaccessible for those with access issues. 

"This funding will greatly improve the outcomes of the project, enabling us to make it longer and more accessible, which will be a great boost to the local community.”

Over the last ten years, SMRT has worked with a range of partners to transform five sites in East Ayrshire, many of which were once completely derelict and unstable and have now been restored to a state in which they can be used for forestry, agriculture, public amenities, or renewable energy. 

One of the most notable transformations is Glenbuck Village, which was successfully restored by SMRT and turned into a place for the public to visit, reflecting the area’s mining and footballing history, and celebrating it as the birthplace of legendary Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly.

Cumnock Chronicle: Glenbuck has previously benefitted. Glenbuck has previously benefitted. (Image: NQ Archive)

Professor Russel Griggs OBE, chairman of SMRT, added: “I’m incredibly proud of the work SMRT has delivered and it’s fantastic that this legacy funding will allow others to follow in our footsteps by continuing to make improvements to some of the areas which were most severely impacted by opencast coal mining.

“This project is testament to the excellent work that can be achieved when people come together to find solutions. 

"What was once seen as a disaster has been turned around thanks to good leadership and the hard work of an exemplar team.”