Geodiversity for Local Authorities

Local Geodiversity Sites are a springboard for valuing, interpreting and celebrating geology in local communities. Local Authorities – working in partnership with regional and national expertise – can designate sites and include them in Local Development Plans to ensure their value is widely recognised.

Scottish Planning Policy includes an expectation that Local Authorities will notify sites for their geodiversity value: “Local nature conservation sites designated for their geodiversity should be selected for their value for scientific study and education, their historical significance and cultural and aesthetic value, and for their potential to promote public awareness and enjoyment.” (Scottish Planning Policy 2014, policy 198.)

Across the country, Local Authorities have adopted different approaches to identifying important local geodiversity. Several authorities have:

  • designated Local Geodiversity Sites as Local Nature Conservation Sites
  • included Geodiversity in Local Biodiversity Action Plans
  • published leaflets and web pages to promote local geodiversity

Taking the Charter forward – advice for Local Authorities This 2103 paper, prepared by the Charter Working Group, outlines how Local Authorities and other Land Owners / Managers can implement the Charter.

Activity that we know about is summarised below: further information welcome, email Angus Miller (

Further information and Support

  • Scottish Natural Heritage – Local Nature Conservation Sites.
  • The British Geological Survey can offer guidance and support on carrying out geodiversity audits.
  • GeoConservation UK has a membership of over 50 Local Geoconservation Groups and promotes local “Geo” sites for education and public benefit and works towards a British Isles perspective, focusing on the common purposes and issues of local interest to Groups.

Local Authorities undertaking geodiversity activity

Aberdeenshire Council has identified more than 100 Local Nature Conservation Sites which includes over 40 sites that have either geological or geomorphological interest. These sites are mapped in the Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan (ALDP) together with a brief description of their interest (Supplementary Guidance 5a- 5f). The ALDP also contains policies for their protection. The Council works closely with other organisations and agencies to protect these sites from adverse impact.

East Dunbartonshire Council adopted its first Local Development Plan in 2017. Following a geodiversity audit carried out in 2011, 34 recommended geodiversity sites have been included as Local Nature Conservation Sites.

City of Edinburgh Council designated 30 Local Geodiversity Sites as Local Nature Conservation Sites, including each site in a Proposals Map associated with the 2016 Local Development Plan. A specific Environment Policy sets out the protection given to landscape and geological features of local importance. Brief descriptions of each site are published on the Edinburgh Geological Society website, and the local geoconservation group Lothian and Borders GeoConservation has produced free leaflets on several of the local sites.

East Lothian Council‘s Local Development Plan (September 2018) fully integrates geodiversity and biodiversity within its Natural Heritage policies. Sites designated in the 2015 Geodiversity Audit as Local Nature Conservation Sites are shown on the Proposals Map, with sites of national importance included in the Geological Conservation Review given the same status as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The local geoconservation group Lothian and Borders GeoConservation has produced free leaflets on several of the local sites.

Falkirk Council adopted the Falkirk Local Development Plan in 2015, and have developed Supplementary Guidance (SG08 Local Nature Conservation and Geodiversity Sites) that provides further information on the definition and conservation value of non-statutory local sites and identifies three Potential Geodiversity Sites.

Glasgow City Council included Geodiversity in the City Development Plan (adopted in 2017), following an audit of sites completed with the British Geological Survey in 2013. The Council has also published supplementary guidance (SG7 Natural Environment), setting out how the City will seek to mitigate and adapt to climate change challenges and seek to protect, enhance and, where appropriate, promote access to nature, including green infrastructure, landscape and the wider environment.

Midlothian Council’s Local Development Plan includes Policy ENV 14 (Regionally and Locally Important Nature Conservation Sites). Midlothian has three Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS) that were designated in the 1990s and work is underway to identify further sites.

North Lanarkshire Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan for 2015-2020 includes a Geodiversity Action Plan recognising how geodiversity supports biodiversity and underpins ecosystem services. Local volunteers in the Kelvin Valley and Cumbernauld area have assessed and reported on more than 50 sites.

Orkney Islands Council has 25 sites of geological or geomorphological interest included in the Orkney Local Development Plan 2017 (listed in Appendix B2: Local Nature Conservation Sites). These include un-notified Geological Conservation Review sites. The Local Plan also gives consideration to wider biodiversity and geodiversity interest, and states that all development proposals must seek to avoid damage to, or loss of, biodiversity and geodiversity, and should enable the maintenance of healthy ecosystems, as well as natural features and processes which provide important services to  communities e.g. coastal protection, flood risk mitigation or carbon storage.

Scottish Borders Council have designated 35 sites to be included in the proposed Local Development Plan (Policy EP3). These sites were identified by Alison and Barry Tymon who carried out an extensive survey of the Scottish Borders Council area, visiting and photographing about 250 sites. Scottish Borders Council have published a Local geodiversity technical note 2020 as a background document to the Proposed Local Development Plan.

West Dunbartonshire Council has 15 Local Geodiversity Sites identified in partnership with Strathclyde Geoconservation Group – these are designated as part of the Local Nature Conservation Site network. Site locations are included in the proposed Local Development Plan (2016) that has not been adopted – work has commenced on preparing a new Plan.

West Lothian Council adopted the West Lothian Local Development Plan in September 2018. This includes an Environment Policy with a presumption against development affecting areas of regional or local natural heritage importance such as Local Biodiversity and Local Geodiversity Sites, or their settings. Supplementary Guidance on Green Networks is to be published including site boundaries and citations covering specific geological merit, socio-economic value and recommendations for retention and interpretation. Further information about West Lothian geodiversity is published online, including a number of leaflets about the best areas to see local geodiversity.