Community Consultation undertaken by Community Action Blackburn in 2014 identified several areas within the community that would benefit from environmental improvement, one of these areas being the verges on the east side of Bathgate Road running between the Mill Centre and the pathway adjacent to the lockups leading into Beechwood Road. This stretch of area on the Bathgate Road was seen as the missing link in the regeneration picture and, given its prominence within the village, improvement work there would help enhance all the individual regenerated areas, as well as the overall impression. Following on from this, Community Action Blackburn set up the Blackburn Environmental Group working alongside Blackburn residents, WLC Community Regeneration Officer, The Conservation Volunteers, Health Improvement Team, Local Schools, Youth Action Project, WLC Housing, WESLO, Blackburn Homeless Unit, WLC NET’s Services and Rural Connect Project. AHR, the Landscape Architects who were involved in the skate park build, were engaged and instructed to provide a proposed plan for the work to be undertaken. Following further community consultation the plans were amended to take on board the comments provided. Funding was sourced from the Villages Improvement Fund, Street Environmental Improvement Project and Community Action Blackburn. Proposed Improvements The work sought to make improvement to 8 bedded areas and 2 larger sites, one located on the east side next to the garage area near to 72 Bathgate Road and the other on the west side adjacent to the footpath leading to Whitehill Road.
A summary of the work carried out is as follows:
- Large plot, measuring 564 sq metres, on the east side will be made into a garden area including a rock garden planted with sedurn collection, raised sleeper beds for community use, existing trees retained, existing shrubs removed and replanted with ground-cover shrubs, new hedge row, re-instate timber railings, seating and block pathing
- 68 square metre plot on the west side next to the bus stop: existing shrubs removed and replanted with ground-cover shrubs, new hedge row with a maximum height of 1m either side of the plot, re-instate timber railings, new footpath through the centre of the area
- All other plots: 8 bedded verges measuring approx 640 square metres, existing shrubs removed and replanted with ground-cover shrubs, new hedge row in the centre of the plots with a maximum height of 1m, re-instate timber railings.
The process was managed by Community Action Blackburn with the initial work being completed in September 2015 with the proviso that the contractors maintained the site for a period of one year before handing responsibility back to West Lothian Council and WESLO Housing.
The community believed that given the area's prominence, improvements to it would help enhance all the individual regenerated areas, as well as the overall impression of the village. To ensure that the work undertaken was professionally supervised and complied with all building regulations, AHR Landscape Architects, who had previously been sub-contracted to manage the contractor for the design and development of the ‘Wheeled Sports Facility’ that we provided within the village, were appointed. The areas improved were owned by West Lothian Council Housing (WLC) and WESLO Housing, who both were involved from the outset in the discussions progressed through the Blackburn Environmental Group. The design incorporated low maintenance planted areas which were maintained for the first year by the contractor, Caley Construction, and thereafter both WLC and WESLO take over the responsibility for continued maintenance. The path located to the north side of the garden area was locally known as ‘Boulder Path’ as a result of a number of boulders being placed there. The boulders were excavated during the required development of the village, when building homes to house the influx of workers at the BMC Factory in the 1960’s. The boulders were dotted throughout the village with some being in an area behind the local shopping centre where they continued to provide endless enjoyment for the local children to play on. The development of a new Partnership Centre means the boulders require to be removed and a number of them have been used in the rockery area within the newly developed ‘Boulder Path Garden’. The community initially identified the need for the improvement undertaken and were fully consulted with their views and suggestions taken on board throughout the design process. The raised planters were planted by the children from the four local schools who will continue to undertake work in them in line with their curriculum. Through our ‘Intergenerational’ programme it is intended to involve a diverse group of residents to assist in the planting and maintenance work in the garden area. A few difficulties were experienced mainly the extreme inclement wet weather in winter of 2015/16 which resulted in the destruction of the plants in the rockery and raised bed areas. Scottish Gas Networks (SGN) arrived in the village in spring 2016 to renew gas pipes which involved digging up areas of the newly planted verges. Healthy communication with AHR, Caley Construction and SGN developed a work plan to ensure replacement of the plants and the reinstatement of the verges. The project has enhanced the environment of the centre and main thoroughfare of Blackburn with the garden area being put to full use by the residents. The work has made the most efficient and effective use of resources by minimising the impact on the built and natural environment and shows that the residents value and enjoy their built and natural environment and look to protect it for future generations