Oct 2 2009 by Gregor White, Stirling Observer Friday
STIRLING is to be part of an ambitious new scheme to dramatically increase the amount and quality of green space available across the country.
The Central Scotland Green Network is the biggest project of its kind in Europe, officially launched by Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham this week.
With a substantial increase in woodland cover and improvements to greenspace and outdoor recreation, the aim is to improve landscapes for towns and cities, including bringing post-industrial derelict and vacant land back to life.
Speaking at an environmental conference in Bathgate on Wednesday Roseanna Cunningham said: “This initiative has the potential to deliver real change for the people of Scotland’s most populated area.
“The project will not only help to improve the environment and health of local people, it will also give the central belt a key competitive edge in terms of business.
“We know that high value, hi-tech businesses are attracted to high quality environments and we believe delivering the green network will help attract new business – particularly important in a time of economic recovery.”
A new partnership board is being set up to take the project forward and produce a work plan by the end of the year.
Stretching across 19 local authority areas from Ayrshire to East Lothian, as well as parts of the Stirling area the project will also cover Clackmannanshire and Falkirk.
Key aims include a significant increase in woodland expansion, improved cycling and walking opportunities and the establishment of a network of priority wildlife habitats.
Director of Forestry Commission Scotland, Bob McIntosh, said: “For the past five years the Commission has undertaken a concerted effort to make woodlands more accessible to people living in urban areas.
“As a result, new urban woodlands have been developed and thousands of hectares of neglected woodlands have been brought back to life through our Woods In and Around Towns programme.
“Now people are enjoying the benefits that urban woodlands can bring.
“This new partnership initiative will take all this work to an unprecedented level and has the potential to revitalise the central belt into a vibrant, thriving green oasis.”
Roddy Fairley of Scottish Natural Heritage added: “This builds on a lot of work over many years and must be great news for lots of people.
“The environment close to where we live is vital. It is where our children are brought up. Its quality is critical to our economic future and wellbeing of our communities.”