The Viewpark Conservation Group and its 2,200 members has successfully completed a community buy out of the land which is the Historic Douglas Support Estate in Lanarkshire, fondly known as ‘Our Glen’ by locals, and a treasured green space.
Land Reform Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Communities across the country, whilst impacted in so many ways by the Covid-19 lockdown, are playing a vital role in maintaining our resilience, our spirit and local support networks.”
“They will also play a critical role in our recovery from the pandemic, which is why I am delighted that the Viewpark Conservation Group – one of 46 projects to have received a share of £8.1 million of Scottish Land Fund in 2019/20 – has finalised its community buyout. As well as creating jobs, the ‘Our Glen’ project will give the people of Lanarkshire a place to treasure, enjoy and improve their own wellbeing whilst protecting a wonderful part of our country.”
This is the biggest urban land buyout in scale in Scotland, at 171 acres with funds of £512,600 from the Scottish Land Fund.
Grace McNeill, Chairperson Viewpark Conservation Group, said: “My feet haven’t touched the ground!”
She said: “The historic Douglas Estate now belongs to the people. After many delays, issues and hurdles, we now own the historic Douglas Estate. Thanks to all the board members, volunteers and fantastic community support – our glen is finally legally transferred into public ownership and we are most grateful to the Scottish Land Fund for their financial support.”
“We have been top of all the lists for all the wrong reasons here – recording the highest levels of asthma and coronary heart disease in North Lanarkshire. This is an important step towards preserving and protecting Viewpark Glen and giving back something of natural beauty and benefit to the health and wellbeing of our local community.”
“We wanted to preserve this dear green space for future generations, so that they could be persuaded away from a sedentary lifestyle constantly on computers and iPad, and come out into the great outdoors for healthier exercise and fresh air.”
“There are woods with mature trees, fish in the North Calder, and habitat for deer, badgers and otters. It is a real asset to the area and the county.”
John Watt, Scottish Land Fund Committee Chair said: “It is so gratifying to see the hard work of Viewpark Conservation Group coming to fruition. This is a perfect example of how the Scottish Land Fund can help motivated communities make a real difference to the lives of people in their local areas.”
The Estate is bounded by the busy road network of the M8, M74 and the A725. It was previously home to Rosehall House and the foundations of which, as well as other sites of historical interest, can still be seen today.
The community group will preserve and regenerate the land and have ambitious plans to manage the woodlands – tidying up and replanting, and to build a healthier more active community. This funding will also create three new jobs.
Grace McNeill continues: “During COVID 19 we have seen a dramatic increase in people spending time in the great outdoors. There are wonderful outdoor walks here and we intend to improve those and create new river walks. We know that our facility helps to address mental health issues of lockdown, and we anticipate that spending time in green space will become prescriptive to address symptoms of anxiety.”
“Following all that the pandemic has thrown at us, we are hoping to be able to offer caravan hookups for staycations in the near future.”
“So many people have helped us on our journey to this point, but I want to give particular thanks to Tim Edwards, Dr James Fenton and William Douglas for graciously giving us the benefit of their expertise.”
Community Land Scotland, the membership organisation which supports rural and urban land buyouts, is delighted that Viewpark Conservation Group are the new owners of this significant area of greenspace in North Lanarkshire.
Kristina Nitsolova, Urban Development Officer at Community Land Scotland, which has provided support to the group, said: “This is the largest urban buy out in scale of land size since urban communities have been able to access funding to purchase land and assets to further the sustainable development of their local area in 2016.”
“Such purchases are underpinned by strong need and community support and have the opportunity to unlock new opportunities and benefits locally. Viewpark Conservation Group have demonstrated that community buyouts are within the capacity of groups in deprived urban areas and we believe they are about to prove just how transformative community landownership can be for those communities.”
“The importance of access to greenspace has been highlighted by the pandemic and has strengthened the Group’s proposals for developing the remnants of the former Douglas Support Estate into a hub for a myriad of outdoor activities accessible for everyone in an area dominated by industrial development. We look forward to supporting Viewpark Conservation Group in the next stages of their community ownership journey.”
The funds awarded will help to restore the farmhouse to create a reception area for people visiting the Glen, with information and education facilities, a café and exhibition area to showcase the history of the estate. The Group will create three new jobs with the appointment of a project manager, a ranger and administrative support.
As well the benefits to the local community, Viewpark Conservation Group plans to increase the range of visitors and increase participation through community and volunteering activities. This will in turn improve the park’s management, maintenance and security, including improving paths and managing woodland.
A bit of history:
This all came about when public outcry from the local community resulted in a petition to Scottish Parliament to halt plans announced for the expansion of Strathclyde Business Park in 2004. The locals were concerned that new commercial buildings would have encroached on this rich green place full of wildlife.
“Rumour was they were going ‘to build on the Glen’ ”, continues Grace. “Youngsters who felt they weren’t being listened to, saught the help of their elders to fight against development. Several of them came to see my husband Tom and colleagues – to ask for our help. I soon got involved and haven’t stopped since then.”
“We took up the campaign to ensure the green space was preserved, for the benefit of all the local community. It’s taken many years to get to this stage. And we have had massive support from the rest of our community. But we are really pleased that our community efforts have finally paid off.”
“There are so few amenities these days with youth clubs having their budgets cut and very few things for youngster to do or places to go. This is a solution – something that costs nothing to enjoy.”
“We listened to what our community wanted.”
Local consultation was an important part of the development, and revealed the older people wanted walks, seats and bins. Whereas active walking groups wanted harder routes, so renewing paths is important. Cycle paths were on the list and expert help was enlisted. Children wanted to be able to go fishing again, running and to use their BMX bikes, hard exercise like assault courses outdoors.”