Rolling back the years
Take a trip to the north-west fringe of Aberdeen and you will be rewarded with a pleasant surprise, and a green surprise at that. An ambitious regeneration project is gathering momentum here, and a green transformation which will bring huge benefits to the local community is nearing completion.
The project centres on the green spaces in and around the Middlefield area of the Granite City, an area first developed for housing back in the 1930s. At that time features like the Scatter Burn were visible, but as housing spread through Middlefield and then into Heathryfold the area took on a distinctly urban feel.
Houses, roads, pavements, culverted burns and streams dramatically changed the landscape as green gave way to grey. The culverts were a particularly sad development encasing running water beneath the ground and removing at a stroke a dynamic natural feature. Scatter burn disappeared into a pipe in 1947. Ultimately even those areas that were green were looking increasingly unloved. But perceptions can and do change and gradually there was a move to harness the green opportunities in Middlefield.
At the heart of the community lay an area of scrubland which in truth was ripe for developing into an urban park. When Aberdeen City Council made a successful bid to the Green Infrastructure Strategic Intervention Fund that ambition became reality. Now a £1.5million project is nearing completion and showcasing just how urban transformation with a strong green focus makes a huge difference.
Scottish Natural Heritage chairman Mike Cantlay was quick to see the benefits heading Middlefield’s way. “The impact of a robust green infrastructure on a community can be revolutionary,” he noted, “from improving physical and mental health, attracting business to an area, to reducing flood risk and improving biodiversity.”
The Project is indeed delivering a high-quality outdoor recreational space in the very heart of the community, and breathing life into an area that had so much potential. The positive impact this will have for people who live here becomes clear when you look at the range of improvements being introduced.
An accessible path network will make it easier for the community to use the park as an active travel route – be they pedestrians or cyclists – and will link housing with the thriving community centre. And given the level of community involvement in the planning and discussion stages the park not surprisingly meets their needs and aspirations. The new footpaths and easy cycle paths are specifically designed to suit a range of users and look set to be very well used.
Also included are a variety of play areas which range from traditional playground approaches to short grass for ball games; all of which sits comfortably alongside wildflower meadows and picnic areas.
So all in all the new works here will make it easier for locals to relax, exercise and socialise in a much improved landscape.
Nature will benefit too. A variety of habitats are being created. As well as the wildflower meadows there are small wetland areas and ponds. These will be a boon for species ranging from flowers and birds through to insects, and alongside this there will be an improvement in the quality of water in the burn.
With water often comes a fear of flooding, but this has been factored in and flood prevention works are a visible and practical improvement to the park. Strategically placed weirs and wetland areas to absorb extreme rainfall and so avoid flooding in residential areas.
It’s been a five-year journey to reach the current impressive stage. The consultation process that preceded work on the ground started in 2014 and the approach taken was to conduct a ‘Total Place’ audit to fully assess what was needed in the neighbourhood.
Part of that process meant that in 2015 school children were asked what improvements they would like to see, and one year on ‘Living Streets’ engaged with the community to discuss an audit on the streets and paths in the area. By autumn 2016 the community were able to review and modify the rapidly evolving plans.
Given that around 25% of the community here are under 16 and 14% over 65 the consultation process captured the views of distinct age groups and thus can be confident that the improvements will make a difference to a wide range of residents.
Vicky Ewan was the first ‘Ranger’ for the area and said, “The ranger service will promote and support environmental activities within the new park which is currently being developed in Middlefield, as well as other green spaces in the area, to members of the local community.
“We’ll also be working with schools in the Middlefield area to support curriculum-linked environmental and outdoor learning. We’re really looking forward to getting out and about in Middlefield and getting to know the local schools and community, as well as ways we can conserve local biodiversity.
“We can’t wait to see the community getting outside and enjoying the recreational and educational opportunities within this exciting new park and other locations within the Middlefield area.”
The changes made today do far more than turn back the clock, they ensure a healthier environment for many future generations.
£500.000 — Aberdeen City Council —flood prevention element,
£426,813 —Scottish Natural Heritage — environmental improvements,
£150,445 —Nestrans — pedestrian priority works
£469,093 —Sustrans —Active Travel routes