Is there a Green Future for Brown Spaces?
Mike Batley set the scene by explaining what the Central Scotland Green Network Trust (CSGN) is all about. Basically it is about establishing a green network across Central Scotland. This is to be achieved by stitching together lots of small green projects carried out by partner bodies like a patchwork quilt. These can range from small community woodlands adjacent to residential areas, local path networks to major Cross Country Trails, such as the John Muir Trail (see below).
CSGN’s partners include local communities, 19 local authorities), the Forestry Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage and developers. The CSGN and their partners work with modest budgets. So the target date for creating the Green Network is 2050, the ultimate in gradualism. Despite this the Government have designated the project as a ‘National Development’ in the Scottish National Planning Framework alongside other projects such as the Glasgow Metropolitan Strategic Drainage Partnership and the regeneration of Ravenscraig. This is of some pride to Mike and his organisation.
The CSGN priorities include supporting economic growth, creating livable places, encouraging community action and addressing health inequalities. Mike took time to elaborate the health and environmental benefits which green places can deliver. Health wise with more outdoor activity people’s health improves and stress is reduced. Improved well-being also results in people having fewer sick days and reduces staff turnover. Environmentally greening can reduce run-off and flood risk, improve the air we breathe and help with climate change.
Mike’s work is related to remediating Vacant and Derelict Land (VDL). There are about 3,500 VDL sites (8,000+ hectares) in Scotland. Although all over the Central Belt, the greatest concentration is in Glasgow and North Lanarkshire. A reflection of Scotland’s coal and steel industrial past. There is no such thing as a typical VDL site as they range from small urban sites to former opencast coal and hard rock quarries. Nor is there a one size fits all solution.
Ravenscraig was one of Mike’s examples of difficult to deliver remediations. The former steel works closed in 1992. The subsequent demolition and decontamination took 5 years. Progress on the regeneration has been stifled by costs, legal challenges (eg concerns about the impact of proposals on adjoining town centres) and the economic downturn. Here CSGN hope to contribute to reducing the VDL, creating active travel opportunities and improving the environment for the benefit of adjoining communities..
Another major example of CSGN’s work has been the delivery of the John Muir Way from Dunbar (John Muir’s birthplace) to Helensburgh. This trail is 134 miles long and cost £1.8 million. In time it is hoped that walkers and hikers expenditure will exceed costs tenfold – a good return on investment! For a better insight see : John Muir Way : https://vimeo.com/193034427
(For more info see CSGN Website : www.csgn.org.uk)