Central Scotland Green Network

Two Major Vacant & Derelict Sites Transformed

In recent weeks, the CSGN has seen the completion of two large scale projects to transform Vacant and Derelict Land (VDL), at key sites in Falkirk and Glasgow.

Following a major injection of funding from the Scottish Government’s Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme, the enhancements at Lionthorn Policy Bing in Falkirk and Avenue End Road in Glasgow will boost local access to usable greenspace, while improving biodiversity and helping to address climate change.

These types of project illustrate what can be achieved through partnership working and a shared vision for how previously unproductive land can be turned into an asset for both people and nature to flourish.

Wetland, woodland and path creation at Avenue End Road

Avenue End Road, Glasgow

On Avenue End Road lies a 3.6 hectare area of land in the heart of Craigend and Garthamlock in Glasgow’s east end. For the last 30 years, the site owned by Glasgow City Council had been a low-quality amenity greenspace, included on the Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Register (SVDLR).

It is a strategic site in the Central Scotland Green Network due to several factors. In terms of biodiversity, it provides important north/south habitat connectivity from the heavily urbanised M8 corridor to the Seven Lochs Wetland Park. Its location as a local amenity is also significant, being in the neighbourhood of five ‘Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation’ (SIMD) datazones; four within the lowest decile and one in the second lowest decile. It is within five minutes’ walk of two nurseries, three primary schools and two additional support needs schools, as well as a health centre, local shops and large areas of social housing.

The Avenue End Road site prior to work commencing – a ‘green’ space but with poor amenity and biodiversity value

This mix of factors meant the site had huge potential to improve both the quality and level of access to greenspace for this area. In fact, Glasgow City Council, the Seven Lochs Project and Green Action Trust have been working with local schools and the community since 2019 to develop plans for Avenue End Road. Funding was secured in September 2021, provided primarily by the Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme, along with funds from Glasgow City Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The overall ambition was to create a safe, attractive, useable and multifunctional greenspace that the community would be proud of and value, while strengthening and extending habitat and access networks.

A teaching circle, orchard and a mix of shrubs and trees will provide new habitat and local amenity

Work commenced in March 2022 and was completed in the autumn, delivering a wide range of new features and enhancements, summarised below.

  • Habitat connectivity and enhancement:
    • New native woodland
    • Orchard and avenue planting
    • New wetland area
    • Wildflower meadow creation
    • Bulb planting
    • Management of historic hedgerows
    • Grassland management
    • Habitat creation to protect and support the grassland water vole population in the area
    • Access improvements:
      • Creation of a new, off-road active travel route providing a safe and surfaced link to local schools and services
      • Network of formal and informal paths to maximise the recreation potential of the site 
    • Community amenities:
      • Creation of a community gathering and outdoor learning area suitable for pupils with additional support needs
      • Three seating areas
      • Additional heritage interpretation, community art and waymarking are to be installed in the coming months

    The site is an important habitat for Glasgow’s grassland water vole population

    The completion of this work has created a real variety of landscape and natural elements, resulting in a far more inviting space to spend time outdoors or simply to travel through. The impact of the work is clear already but should be even more obvious in the springtime when much of the new planting will come to life, and in the years ahead as it matures.

    New paths and seating areas were installed to improve access and usability
    Trees planted along paths sit alongside pockets of mixed tree and shrub species and existing mature trees

    Lionthorn Policy Bing, Falkirk

    Lionthorn Policy Bing is owned by Falkirk Council and is the remains of a coal mining spoil heap lying between the communities of Lionthorn and Hallglen. The colliery closed in 1960, resulting in the site being cleared and the top section of the bing being converted into a blaes sports area. By the early 1980’s, the pitches were no longer regularly used and fell into disrepair.

    Prior to work (top), the top of the bing was unused. New topsoil, planting and landscaping (bottom).

    Although other areas of the bing had been improved over the years through woodland planting and the creation of footpaths, the top of the bing has until recently remained untreated and was classified as Vacant and Derelict Land in 2015.

    In recent years, the site was identified in a number of local plans and strategies (e.g. Local Development Plan 2, Open Space Strategy and Greenspace Strategy) as providing an opportunity to enhance the area’s Green Network through improvements to biodiversity, the active travel network and improving the area’s landscape, with the aim of making the area a better place to live, play and visit.

    New features like heavy trees and new paths augment the previous phase of path creation

    Like Avenue End Road, the site’s strategic location as a habitat link, alongside its position adjacent to a neighbourhood that falls into the lowest two deciles in Scotland’s SIMD datazones, meant there was a strong case to improve access to greenspace here for the benefit of all.

    Work commenced in the spring of 2022 and was completed in the autumn, delivering a large package of greenspace improvements – totalling close to £750,000 – funded by the VDLIP and Falkirk Council. These include:

    • Landscaping using a substantial new layer of topsoil to provide visual interest and shelter on this exposed site, and to enable planting of trees and shrubs
    • Creation of extensive meadow areas and ‘nectar rich’ bulb planting which will contribute to the creation of the John Muir Pollinator Way, Scotland’s first B-Lines project
    • Native woodland planting
    • Extra heavy standard trees – to provide immediate visual interest, structure, and amenity
    • ‘Edible’ hedge planting to encourage wildlife and biodiversity
    • ‘Kick about’ grass pitch for sport and exercise
    • Path link/access enhancements to improve the local active travel provision

    One of the protected ‘edible hedges’ that will boost biodiversity as it matures

    Although many of the new features will need some time to bed in and grow, already the transformation is clear to see, providing a more attractive – and biodiverse – space to spend time outdoors.

    New landscaped mounds with trees and benches add visual interest and places to enjoy the views
    New paths link into existing path networks, making an attractive active travel route

    The greenspace enhancements at Lionthorn bing were developed in partnership between Falkirk Council and Green Action Trust.

    Derelict sites can be a blight on communities and often hold back development. The five year, £50 million low carbon Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme is intended to have a transformational impact by investing in creating great places, regenerating communities, creating jobs and helping tackle climate change.

    Tom Arthur
    Scottish Government’s Communities Minister
    Scottish Government's Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme has contributed a total of:
    towards the completion of greenspace enhancements at Lionthorn and Avenue End Road.