Conversations in Stevenston about adapting to climate risk

People sitting around tables in discussion at workshop
Published: 21/03/2023

A trip to the seaside is never a bad thing, except maybe a Scottish beach in February. The Climate Action Towns team at Architecture and Design Scotland packed their coats, brollies and deckchairs and set off for a Climate Risk Adaptation workshop in Stevenston, on the Ayrshire coast. And do you know what? It was a wonderful, calm winter’s day.….

This was the first in a series of Climate Risk Adaptation workshops being held in towns across Scotland as part of our Climate Action Towns work.  It took place in the Ardeer Community Centre in Stevenston on the 23rd February 2023, and was a chance for people to discuss local climate risks and identify opportunities to adapt to them.

Working with the Energy and Sustainability Team at North Ayrshire Council, we identified the opportunity to explore how we might adapt to the impacts of climate change at a local scale in Stevenston. In line with the Adaptation Capability Framework which is being carried out by North Ayrshire Council at a strategic level, we focussed on the key headings at a town scale, particularly the themes of “Understanding the Challenge” and “Working Together”. 

This collaborative workshop was well attended by a large cross-section of community groups, representatives from the local authority and other stakeholders (including The Wildlife Trust), who brought enthusiasm and expertise to the table.

Officers from North Ayrshire Council brought additional knowledge in areas such as flood risk management and biodiversity among others.


“It was good to meet with other passionate individuals who want to work towards a better, more climate-risk ready town”

Local Authority Officer

“One good thing about the workshop was the discussions with various people involved from Council to Community”

Member of the community

Understanding the Challenge

An important element of our discussion in Stevenston was based on the 15 key consequences of Climate Change in Scotland. Using these as the basis of our conversation, participants discussed a range of issues, including potential local flooding impacts as noted on flood risk maps.

The group also discussed their lived experience, and the changes people have been observing locally. Participants were keen to explain a number of observations of a changing climate in Stevenston, including trains that are unable to run in adverse weather and a stronger westerly wind leading to greater coastal erosion. These were added to an overall map of the discussions being captured at the event.

We took on the tricky task of predicting which climate risk trends will persist and worsen, and again noted these issues on our map. Conversation meandered naturally to the local rivers which have historically changed course, mainly due to human intervention and will likely do so again over time.

A Focus on Adaptation

We shared a short presentation explaining the definitions of adaptation, mitigation and resilience, and examples of these from across Scotland. Below is a summary of these definitions.

Considering these examples and the risks specific to Stevenston, participants focussed on the area of adaptation, and suggested potential measures for the town. The suggestions ranged from: planting more trees in urban areas to mitigate the effects of increased heat and rain, creating new wetlands upstream from flood risk areas, to developing business continuity plans and preparing the community to be ready for change.

There was an animated discussion about how to get more people involved in adaptation and sharing this message beyond the interested groups.

Definitions of Mitigation, Adaptation and Resilience

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to slow or stop global climate change, i.e. using the car less, flying less and buying local food.

Adjusting to the impacts of climate change to reduce the negative impacts and exploit any opportunities, i.e. building sea walls or removing carpets from accommodation that is at risk from flooding.

The ability and capacity to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to hazardous events, trends, or disturbances related to climate change i.e. having plans and strategies in place to deal with emerging risks and barriers.

“One thing I didn’t know before the workshop were the definitions of mitigation, adaptation and resilience” 

Local Authority Officer

Working together

At the end of the workshop it was agreed that this forum should be the start of the conversation, and that Stevenston needs to move beyond discussion and into action. The next step is to focus on planning and implementing adaptation measures that work for the community of Stevenston.

By late afternoon we were ready for tea and cake, which was had at the nearby Doon the Beach Café with the group. This was a great way to say thank you to many of the workshop participants and rounded off a wonderful day in Stevenston. We didn’t get to build any sandcastles on the beach this time, but maybe in the summer…

“Much more needs to be done to communicate with the general public what they can do to help make change happen”

Member of the community
An architectural sketch of people walking on a pathway and relaxing by a river beside a town centre.

Supporting place-based climate action in a network of small Scottish towns

Read more about the Climate Action Towns project and the network of small Scottish towns that are aiming to create a healthier, fairer and more thriving place to live for their communities.

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