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Cumbernauld Living Landscapes Partnership
Natural Connections

With a population of around 52,000, Cumbernauld is the tenth most populous town in Scotland, characterised by high density urban living and some of the highest areas of multiple deprivation. However, it is also one of the greenest towns in Scotland, with over 50% of the town being greenspace. 

Land ownership around the town is complex. The greenspaces around the town are owned mostly by North Lanarkshire Council, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Forest Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise, social housing providers and private developers.

Approaches to managing it are not joined up, and it can be difficult to track who owns what. Organisations and private owners have different resources, views and remits, and there is no one set route for how things are achieved. Land management varies considerably depending on the understanding, skills and resources of each owner.  The landscape areas have therefore often been disconnected and in some cases neglected, with awareness and  use of natural heritage by the local population being very low.

To address this Cumbernauld Living Landscape used a living landscape partnership approach to bring different landowners together to develop volunteer-led conservation, based on community engagement and sustainability. The initiative has a long-term vision for transformational change to the towns’ environment. By engaging with a wide range of interested parties, it works to benefit local people and wildlife, and to support an evolving regional economy by reinforcing and expanding existing green and blue networks, reconnecting the people of Cumbernauld to their natural environment. 

Key land owners in Cumbernauld formed the initiative and this has expanded to other interested parties that now include:

  •  Scottish Wildlife Trust (project instigators)
  • North Lanarkshire Council
  • The Conservation Volunteers
  • Sanctuary Scotland Housing Association
  • The James Hutton Institute (research partners)
  • Forestry and Land Scotland.

Several community partners across the town also support individual projects within the initiative, including: Community Councils, NHS, Police Scotland, Youth Services, Fire Services, the Corra Foundation, The Prince’s Trust, New College Lanarkshire, and North Lanarkshire Council Education and Social Work services. 

The key objectives of the Initiative are:

  • To enhance and protect the biodiversity of the sites and reconnect the wider green network
  • To involve the community, local groups and schools in both decisionmaking and practical management of local greenspaces
  • To raise community awareness and ensure more people can benefit from nature though school workshops and practical volunteering

Approach

The Cumbernauld Living Landscape worked with local schools to support young people and their communities. This drove improvements to three important wildlife sites across the town – two North Lanarkshire Council green-spaces and one Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve. 

Management Plans were drafted by the relevant land owners for each area. The Living Landscape initiative aims to work with local communities to create Action Plans for aspects of direct community management at each of the three sites.  The Plans are adjusted to reflect what the community could reasonably do.

Over a two-year period, the team spoke to over 10,000 people at 84 different events using both traditional and digital media, including:

  • A weekly column in the local newspaper
  • Website and social media
  • A pop-up ‘Living Windows’ exhibition in an empty town centre shop window
  • Volunteering opportunities through weekend volunteers – the ‘Nature Ninjas’
  • Project based 12-week internships and work placements for young people
  • Outreach work through social events for the community 

Achievements and Benefits

The Engaging Communities Project worked with young people identified by their schools as being at risk of disengaging.  They provide a programme of ‘Natural Connections’ workshops to explore the values, perceptions, aspirations, community and environment of the young people involved.

Cumbernauld Living Landscape promoted the work of volunteers across social media and celebrated the mosaic of habitats and wildlife that could be found in the town, beginning with the story of resident pine martens.  Many of the weekend volunteers have been inspired to join in and support the work they see being done by young people. By making the volunteering fun and sociable, the self-named ‘Nature Ninjas’ now include a more diverse range of members of the local community, ranging from families with young children, teenagers, people who are unemployed and wanting to develop for new skills to people who are working and unable to help during the week and retirees. 

Learning

The experience of residents in an urban setting can be very disconnected from their wider environment. Working with disengaged / disadvantaged communities around conservation awareness and support is very challenging It takes time and perseverance.  For Cumbernauld Living Landscape this led to a shift in focus to developing projects that supported compassion, employability and skills development, and good mental health. Being embedded and visible in the community and working with local partners was crucial.  

What next?

The connections, relationships and knowledge built over the two-and-a-half-year project have been developed into a new Creating Natural Connections project. With the help of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the partnership has now secured over £2million investment for a 4-year project that will reach and engage with even more people and have a bigger impact on the town’s green network.

A total area of urban woodland equivalent to 230 football pitches (230 hectares) will be sustainably managed, and more than 12,000 native trees will be planted. Three peat bogs near houses will be restored, and six new community rain gardens will help reduce the impacts of flooding.

Find Out More

Cumbernauld Living Landscape
5-7 Napier Way
Wardpark
North Cumbernauld
G68 9HL

T: 01236 617113
www.cumbernauldlivinglandscape.co.uk

St Maurices Pond volunteers