Future of Falkirk’s open spaces open for discussion

The paddling pond at Zetland Park.
The paddling pond at Zetland Park.

Councillors have backed a parks and open space strategy across the district they hope will deliver a ‘feel good’ factor to communities.

The public will have its say on proposals for their future upkeep and development during a 12-week consultation into proposals aimed at halting their decline and putting in place measures to manage and maintain them for generations to come.

The new approach ties in with the decision by Falkirk Council’s executive to give the green light to adopt a ‘masterplan’ for Zetland Park in Grangemouth to protect its heritage and improve facilities.

Council officers, The Friends of Zetland Park and Falkirk Community Trust will now work together to find the funding to deliver key improvements.

The ambitious wish list includes:

* refurbishment of the play park;

* removal of the derelict paddling pond;

* reinstating historical features such as the drinking fountain;

* providing a permanent stage.

The executive was told masterplans or other management plans have produced a winning solution where they have been tried elsewhere - The Helix Park and Muiravonside Country Park just two of the success stories.

Rhona Geisler, director of development services, admitted: “In a challenging financial climate any investment of any scale in this area needs to come from outwith Falkirk Council.

“Very few, if any, of these important development opportunities can be funded by the council alone. A robust masterplan is the best tool to attract external funding and ensure this funding can be put to most effective use.”

She said that the response to the public consultation into the Zetland Park masterplan organised by The Friends of Zetland Park had produced a “phenomenal” response which now gives the council a solid reason to apply to organisations like the Heritage Lottery to tap into its ‘Parks for People’ fund.

The masterplan already includes most of the information necessary to move it forward to the next stage in the bidding process.

The review of the open space strategy and parks development plan by a panel of councillors and officers took over a year.

Ideas include charging small business and commercial organisations for using them and allowing communities to take over ownership and the responsibility of the future management of playspaces in their areas.

Last year the council contributed £4.8 million towards the cost of maintaining the parks, but future investment will need the backing of partners.

The ‘new vision’ contained in the draft strategy covers all open space, not just council owned open space.

Rhona Geisler said: “We expect the public will be interested in giving their views particularly on whether the proposed actions within each area strategy meets their aspirations and which actions in their view should be given priority.”

Councillor Adrian Mahoney, who was part of the panel, said: “This is a draft strategy to move our parks and open spaces forward with the support of our communities.

“We have made significant investment in our parks in recent years with some incredible numbers coming to enjoy our open spaces and path network, but we have to be realistic and admit there will be challenges ahead.”