Innovation Exchange

Transformation of Almondvale Park

Introduction

Key activities

Benefits and impacts

Learning

Further Information

The West Lothian Local Plan 2009 recognised the importance of the River Almond valley in Livingston’s town centre and prompted the council to carry out an independent study that would inform how the area could be revitalised.

 

In accordance with the Local Plan, the overall aim of this project was to create a more accessible, wildlife-rich, quality outdoor community hub, to complement the civic and commercial centres of Livingston. We also aimed to increase active travel, increase physical activity, and highlight the wider River Almond corridor as a valuable resource.

 

The independent study included a review of the existing park surroundings, opportunities for improvements, a Master Plan and suggested possible sources of funding. Community aspirations were determined by extensive consultation including events and surveys.

 

underpass after redevelopment

 

Theme: Community Planning and Empowerment

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In the context of the overall budget and maintenance resource, the public aspirations and study results became project outcomes. This process was informed by a raft of professionals across construction, flood engineering, transport, biodiversity, public art, play and other relevant fields. Throughout the process we ensured we were maximising delivery of the council’s corporate priorities and delivering the aims of the Open Space Strategy and Active Travel Plan.

 

  • Re-route a section of the National Cycle Route 75 through the park, including lighting and a road crossing
  • Upgrade the network of paths
  • Give the park an identity and create a welcoming sense of place through design and signage
  • Create a new, stimulating destination play area that blends with the surroundings
  • Create a measured walk/run with options for people of varying ability, in partnership with ParkRun
  • Habitat improvement works, such as tree thinning and wildflower planting
  • Involve the community in the renovation of an underpass and 3 under bridge areas via a public art project
  • Increase connections with the River Almond (Livingston’s principal natural asset) through tree thinning, path improvements, viewing platforms and interpretation
  • Upgrade park furniture, create ‘plazas’ for socialising and provide a community events space

The project has significant environmental, economic and social benefits.

 

Environmental

  • Increased protection and enhancement of the environment (renovating the park and giving it an identity, enhancing natural habitats within the park thereby enhancing biodiversity)
  • Increased environmental sustainability (lowering carbon emissions by encouraging people to travel actively and reducing mowing)
  • Reducing the environmental impact of our service (using quality, robust materials which last a long time and reduce maintenance)
  • Raising awareness of and promoting environmental issues (interpretation elements and consultation informs people about environmental issues)

 

Economic

  • External investment (£800,000 from Sustrans)
  • Increased joint working throughout project development to maximise the return on investment with internal and external partners.
  • Reduced long-term maintenance costs (careful design and use of robust materials)
  • Boosting the economy by attracting visitors, new residents/workers, and subsequent potential investment.

 

Social

  • Improving the physical/mental health of all other park users (promoting positive physical and mental health for all via the creation of active and passive zones within the park and promoting the new facilities, improved amenity value and connection with nature promotes wellbeing)
  • Increased volunteering opportunities (community engagement in the public art project, Sustrans volunteers looking after the wildflower meadows, ParkRun looking after the measured walk route)

 

Through careful and comprehensive dialogue with all stakeholders we have ensured ongoing maintenance of the park so the community will benefit for many years. This included ensuring maintenance of additional features through appropriate contracts with construction organisations as well as with grounds maintenance and play maintenance teams. Throughout design, we ensured low maintenance and durable materials were used.

 

Significant ad hoc positive feedback has been received from a wide range of park users and we will shortly analyse results of Civic Centre Staff Survey to assess impact of park infrastructure upgrades.

 

Success will be measured by a planned formal survey of the quality of the park (Open Space Strategy methodology) and by counting visitors (application to procure people counters is pending).

The clear links to Council strategy and the comprehensive and transparent community engagement process at the start, and throughout the project, helped to set a strong business case for the park improvements, which enabled us to justify spending for such a high profile project in this time of austerity. This ensured that challenges could be addressed from those not aware of the multiple benefits.

 

Also, working in partnership with others added significant value to the project – both economic value (increasing the budget available for the project by attracting external funding and gaining volunteers) and social value (community ‘ownership’).

 

The project therefore became a very powerful example of how public money can realise the vision of the community, initiating projects that bring together many stakeholders across a variety of backgrounds, and pooling limited resources and ideas to the significant benefit of all surrounding communities and individuals.

 

Project management challenges were met through regular project progress meetings whereby solutions were debated and decided upon, allowing all stakeholders to have an input.

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:

 

Andy Johnston

NETs, Land and Countryside Manager

01506 776675

Case study added to site: February 2017

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