SCARRED countryside around the former mining communities of East Ayrshire is set for a transformation that will reconnect their communities with the land, thanks to an initial Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of almost £200,000.

The East Ayrshire Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership (CCLP) will administer the grant, which will help local communities develop projects to provide opportunities in leisure, tourism, skills and training. It is also aimed at helping find new uses for the former open-cast mining sites.

In the first part of a two-stage process the CCLP has issued a “call for projects”, asking interested parties to submit their ideas for improving the designated landscape area by the end of February.

The initial funding will support this measure, and ideas are being invited from local organisations and community groups. These will be assessed alongside those already identified by development studies.

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Project proposals which meet a strict set of criteria will then be chosen to submit more detailed plans by the end of August.

Successful projects will go on to receive match funding of a minimum of 47% of their total cost in a second round of bidding to the HLF.

To qualify for the next round, any proposal must meet the following criteria: they have to reveal the past lives of the communities, drawing upon their close relationship with the land, connecting people with their heritage and inspiring stewardship of the landscape.

It must also equip people with the skills and knowledge to manage their landscape sustainably, building capacity and making it a successful place for residents and visitors alike.

The projects will also have to address threats to the natural, built and cultural heritage through conservation, enhancement and promotion.

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And they will have to create opportunities for learning, recreation and wellbeing within the landscape for people from a varied range of backgrounds.

All the proposed projects will also be judged on their ability to meet at least one from each of HLF’s heritage, communities and people outcomes and at least three of CCLP’s key objectives.

They will have to be submitted with a detailed budget, as well as details of potential or confirmed funding, along with an undertaking that they will be completed by the end of November 2025.

Councillor Jim Roberts, the council’s cabinet member for economy and infrastructure, welcomed the initial call for projects.

He said: “In the coalfield communities’ area the landscape and the heritage of the people have been intertwined for centuries and it’s great to see this funding and encouragement for the people who live and work in the area to have a real effect on how the landscape develops in future.

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“We know from our urban regeneration projects how restoration and sympathetic modernisation of buildings can have a dramatic effect on lives, jobs, businesses and the local economy, and with this money the same can be achieved for our natural landscape too.

“Years of coal mining bound the communities together but also left its scars.

“We’ve already got some fantastic habitats and environments within the coalfield areas but there is so much more that can be done to capitalise on this, develop lasting facilities and opportunities for the next generation to carry forward.

“We’re looking for all sorts of projects, big or small and our officers are happy to speak to anyone who’s interested, talk them through the application process and hopefully bring some very exciting new ventures to the area.”