Winchburgh grew up rapidly in the 19th Century as a result of opening of the Union Canal and the manufacture of shale oil. However, the decline of the shale oil production in the early 20th Century gave rise to large areas of vacant and derelict land, and shale oil waste 'bings' remain a characteristic feature of the landscape.
For a number of years the remains of old rail lines, workers' cottages and mine workings constrained the development of the brownfield sites surrounding Winchburgh. To overcome this problem, West Lothian Local Plan identified Winchburgh and the neighbouring town of Broxburn as Core Development Areas in its 2009 West Lothian Local Plan. This paved the way for the creation of new housing and business developments, transport connections and community facilities.
Whilst promoting economic regeneration, the Local Plan also sought to protect and enhance the area's diverse countryside, distinctive towns and villages and industrial heritage. To this effect, the Local Plan recommended the preservation of a green corridor between the communities of Winchburgh and East Broxburn. The aim of this green corridor was to avoid coalescence and to ensure that these expanding communities retained their separate identities.
Proposals for the green corridor focused on the creation of a new Heritage Park. This park would contain a network of paths linking to the surrounding countryside, and heritage interpretation facilities explaining the history of the Union Canal and the area's shale mining industry. The proposed Heritage Park would also include an area of ancient woodland and the Local Plan recommended the expansion of these woodlands as part of the development of a forest habitat network.
CM Solutions was commissioned by the Central Scotland Forest Trust (CSFT) to identify opportunities and constraints for environmental improvements, access improvements, new woodland planting and woodland management in a discrete area between Broxburn and Winchburgh.
Extensive desk top surveys were undertaken along with a number of site visits to the study area. Key stakeholders were also identified and discussions were held to outline the project proposals and to enquire about the aspirations for the future uses of the land.
A report summarising the project was produced along with proposals for a range of environmental improvements. These proposals sought to enhance the landscape setting of Winchburgh, reinvigorate and expand the ancient woodland, restore hedgerows and improve access links.
This project received funding from the 2010 CSGN Development Fund and supports a number of CSGN themes. For example, the consideration of green infrastructure has been a central aspect of the plans for the Core Development Areas of Winchburgh and Broxburn, and plans for the development of a green corridor between these towns were included from the outset of the planning process.
By identifying opportunities for woodland creation and management, this project will tackle poor air quality and will ultimately contribute to the mitigation of climate change. The project also identifies access opportunities and encourages the use of greenspace for recreation and active travel. It is hoped that this will help to improve the health and well-being of local communities as the Core Development Areas of Broxburn and Winchburgh progress.
The Core Development Area of Winchburgh has not progressed as quickly as originally expected due to the economic downturn. The opportunities identified in the report will be taken forward as the project proceeds.
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