Green Infrastructure Project Update - Park life
Michael McGuinness, Economic Development Manager for West Dunbartonshire Council, wears a broad smile these days. And so he should. The redevelopment of the former site of St Eunan’s Primary School into a thriving Community Park at a time when biodiversity loss and climate change concerns are high on the agenda is a significant success.
Speaking with Michael it’s clear that he views the recent regeneration of Melfort Park as a team effort. Throughout his praise for the project, he acknowledges the role of skilled colleagues and an enthusiastic local community.
He takes up the story with some pride: “We looked at the site that housed the former St Eunan’s Primary School in Clydebank, and were aware that the place had been lying derelict for a number of years. The school was actually demolished back in 2011. Initially we were looking to develop this area for housing, however we discovered some imported contaminants on site, and this meant we could not make things work financially in terms of delivering it for homes.”
Yet as if to prove the old adage that ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ a Plan B, and a highly topical Plan B at that, was quickly identified.
“We decided to look at how we could bring this derelict site back into Community use,” he explains, “and we elected to apply for Green Infrastructure Funding from Scottish Government, which was managed by NatureScot, and we secured funding – almost half a million pounds – to help us convert the derelict site into a community biodiversity park.”
And so began a journey based on dialogue and determination.
In 2016 West Dunbartonshire Council consulted extensively with local communities, to understand from them what would they like to see on the site, what would they use, and what would most benefit the people of Clydebank. Then working hand-in-hand with planning colleagues a design was drawn up that would successfully bring the area back into community use.
Michael explains: “This is a park for everyone. We’ve got community gardens, we’ve got play areas, we’ve got seating areas, and we’ve got viewing platforms. However, biodiversity is key, and really important to us in terms of our climate change agenda at West Dunbartonshire. To this end we were determined to make sure that we didn’t sanction lots of manicured lawns in a park setting. We wanted to make sure that biodiversity and community groups had a park that fits current needs.”
“Nearby communities have been involved in the development of the park, and that’s as it should be as they are using it on a daily basis for a range of activities from dog walking and cycling to growing food and taking exercise. I’m delighted the park is now open and that all parts of the local community have full access to this absolutely unique park in West Dunbartonshire. I’m mindful too of all the support we have had from Scottish Government and the community in making this all happen.”
Good green infrastructure is recognised now as contributing to halting biodiversity loss, tackling climate change impacts and providing a framework to help deliver health and well-being benefits. Little wonder Michael feels a sense of contentment when he reflects on the impact of Melfort Park.
The Green Infrastructure Fund Is part of the Scottish Government’s current European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programme, which runs through to 2023. This is one of two ERDF Strategic Interventions led by NatureScot – the other is the Natural & Cultural Heritage Fund.
You can follow the European Structural Funds blog for ESF activities, news and updates. For twitter updates go to @scotgovESIF or use the hashtags #ERDF and #europeanstructuralfunds