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Natural flood management

Nature-based solutions, Largs and Kilbirnie

The Gogo Water contributes to flood risk in Largs and the River Garnock contributes to flood risk in Kilbirnie. To help manage the flood risk North Ayrshire Council has:

  • carried out studies
  • put in place formal flood protection schemes  

As more extreme weather events will bring more extensive and more frequent flooding, adaptations are necessary to:

  • respond to climate change
  • secure the existing levels of flood protection

One way to achieve this is through Nature-based Solutions (NbS). NbS consider natural ways to store, and slow, rainwater as it flows from the hills, into rivers, and through towns.

North Ayrshire Council commissioned NbS feasibility studies for Largs and Kilbirnie. These studies have identified the potential for NbS to reduce flood risk within the towns.

The land above both towns consists of open grassland changing to bog in the upper parts of the hills, as well as areas of commercial and natural woodland. Land use is primarily for sheep grazing and timber production. Both uses are important products for Scotland.

A large proportion of the countryside around Largs and Kilbirnie is within the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park.


The studies have found that the condition of the hills has potential for improvement. Exposed peat in the bogs, drains that were added to grassland and the mainly short grass-type vegetation all lead to increased rainfall runoff. along with other problems such as soil loss and carbon loss.

The addition of the large commercial forest in the lower hills above Largs, however, was found to have reduced rainfall runoff as the mature trees intercept and store the rainwater before it can reach the rivers.

Nature-based Solutions including:

  • woodland creation
  • drain blocking and muir grip blocking
  • cross hill bunds
  • wetlands and ponds
  • seasonal reduction of livestock
  • woody debris dams in streams

could reduce the impacts of climate change. This would improve the resilience of Largs and Kilbirnie to flood risk in the future. 


Benefits of NbS

Implementing NbS will:

  • increase soil health
  • increase biodiversity
  • improve air and water quality
  • regulate carbon
  • restore the natural landscape

Funds for NbS

Currently there are no funding mechanisms for the implementation of Nature-based Solutions. The council has a role in promoting the uptake of NbS so that positives changes can be made by landowners and other interested parties as and when opportunities arise. 

Any proposals would need to recognise the importance of maintaining sheep grazing and timber production.

Nature-based Solutions are already in place in the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park. For example, an area of the park has been converted to woodland through the combined work of:

  • not for profit companies
  • community led organisations
  • landowners 

If you are in a position to help put in place Nature-based Solutions for Largs and Kilbirnie, then please email the Flooding Team.