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CENTRAL SCOTLAND FOREST STRATEGY TO FOCUS ON URBAN AREAS

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A new strategy for the Central Scotland Forest between Edinburgh and Glasgow has been launched. ...
A new strategy for the Central Scotland Forest between Edinburgh and Glasgow has been launched.

The forest comprises 620 square miles covering West Lothian, Falkirk, North Lanarkshire, and parts of East Dunbartonshire and South Lanarkshire.

The Strategy is to focus activity on urban areas so that the quality of living for many people will be raised through making more woodlands in and around towns more accessible.

The strategy, written by the Central Scotland Forest Trust on behalf of all the partners in the Forest, highlights a number of actions including:

* improving the green space near densely populated areas

* transforming derelict land into greener and more attractive landscapes

* conserving and enhancing native woodlands and valuable heritage areas

* improving and creating more woodland and countryside access for communities and visitors

* maximising the benefits and value of forests and woodlands

To date, almost 5,000 hectares of woodland have been established in the Central Scotland Forest since 1995. More than 600 hectares of this is on derelict land, old mines and landfill sites.

Forestry minister Allan Wilson highlighted the lifestyle benefits of urban forestry by taking a stroll on the Petersburn Health Walk in Airdrie.

He said:

'Anyone travelling through the project area cannot fail to notice the difference, with young woodlands beginning to make a major contribution to the local environments, both in terms of landscape and biodiversity.

'But it's not just about improving the environment. The Central Scotland Forest provides up to 40 full-time jobs and about 1,000 training days each year, often for the long-term unemployed, through its construction contracts. Significant community projects have also been established, and last year alone 54 kilometres of countryside access routes were created.

'In recognition of the importance of promoting healthy lifestyles, the partners involved in the strategy are creating short, easily graded 'health walks' close to residential areas. This is an area of work that aptly demonstrates how urban forests can improve the fitness and well-being of the communities surrounding them. Partners are encouraging GPs to recommend these walks as part of an exercise regime and to provide group activities to make it all fun.

'I welcome the recognition in the new strategy that people are at the heart of where all the action is to be focussed. It is also important that the strategy emphasises that whilst creating and managing woodlands is important, we also need to ensure that bringing public benefits from the Forest is essential, particularly for disadvantaged individuals, groups and communities.

'Woodlands have a great potential to increase the quality of living space in our towns and as a way of turning the blight of derelict and vacant land into attractive landscape assets and a source of civic pride.'

The Executive has committed£900,000 of core funding to the Forest this year, an increase of£50,000 over the previous year. Two other funding initiatives by the Executive were announced in April.

The first, a Scotland-wide Woodland in and Around Towns (WIAT) challenge fund totalling£3.5m over the next four years, is aimed at bringing back to life woods in the urban fringes. Woodland owners in towns with a population greater than 3,000 are being invited to apply for financial help to regenerate their woodlands for the benefit of the public.

The second, a woodland top-up grant called the Central Scotland Forest Locational Premium, has allocated£4m over the next four years to encourage the creation of new woodlands in the Forest area. This grant has been refined to focus the highest level of support on the more urban areas of the Central Scotland Forest.

Further information about the Central Scotland Forest Strategy is available on www.csft.co.uk, or telephone 01501 822015.

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