During 2021-22 Falkirk Council piloted a new approach to managing parks and greenspaces more sustainably. The approach demonstrated that changes to management and nature enhancements in parks and other greenspaces can deliver significant benefits for biodiversity, climate and people. Falkirk Council has over 630 parks and open spaces covering 24km2.

Following the successful pilot, the Council committed to changing the management of its parks and greenspaces – an approach which now goes under the banner Spaces for Nature. 

During 2023, a successful bid for funding from the Levelling Up Parks Fund, with some match from Falkirk Council helped the team to progress the project at pace:

  • a Spaces for Nature Action Plan was developed.
  • local community engagement and info sharing took place
  • the Spaces for Nature logo was developed and interpretive panels designed to support delivery and promotion.

Spaces for Nature Action Plan

Consultants WSP worked with Falkirk Council to undertake greenspace mapping and the development of a Spaces for Nature Action Plan. A WebApp digital mapping facility, hosting Spaces for Nature ‘heat mapping’ (an exercise using data to identify and rank sites suitable for enhancement and nature network creation) and a wide range of other datasets, was created. The data layers represent priority themes such as natural habitat types, council landownership, grounds maintenance areas, green travel routes, green networks, local nature conservation sites, various open-space types, and SIMD zones.

The mapping information, together with input from colleagues across the Council (including Planning, Greenspace and Grounds Maintenance staff) helped create the Action Plan. A workshop was also held to discuss the principles to be used for nature network selection and development. The workshop was run by WSP and attended by Falkirk Council staff and a representative from the Scottish Government Biodiversity Team working on Nature Networks and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy.

The Spaces for Nature Action Plan:

  • Identifies 10 priority enhancement sites 
  • Provides nature enhancement proposals, with associated indicative species lists and maintenance requirements for the 10 Priority Sites 
  • Describes the role of nature networks within Falkirk Council and summarises opportunities for nature network creation within Falkirk Council. 
  • Provides recommendations for future mapping and development of nature enhancements and nature networks.

More information on the Action Plan is available from Anna Perks, Biodiversity Officer at Falkirk Council. 

New equipment for the new approach is required – as part of the funding, a specialist Cultipack seed-drill was purchased to support meadow creation.

Local community engagement

During the development of the Action Plan, the social enterprise Under The Trees Ltd was commissioned to provide a programme of ‘Spaces for Nature’ activity sessions at various greenspace sites across the Falkirk Council area. The sessions were free of charge and aimed at families. They were themed around birds, pollinators, minibeasts, pond dipping etc as appropriate to the site, and staff running the events spoke to participants about the Spaces for Nature project and the work of Falkirk Council to manage greenspace sites in a way that is better for the environment. The aim was to highlight how and why parks and other greenspaces are being managed differently to benefit nature, and to encouraged local people to enjoy discovering the nature on their doorsteps.

The nature network outputs were also shared during a workshop and information sharing session hosted by the Inner Forth Partnership. The session involved representatives from Stirling, Falkirk, Clackmannanshire and Fife councils, Nature Scot, TCV, RSPB, Climate Forth and Green Action Trust.

Wider context

Globally and nationally biodiversity is in decline. The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy sets out a clear ambition for Scotland to be Nature Positive by 2030 and to have restored and regenerated biodiversity across the country by 2045. Within the strategy the Scottish Government sets out priority actions for 2030, including the following action “ensure that every local authority area has a nature network improving ecological connectivity across Scotland”. 

Spaces for Nature is one of 11 projects supported by greenspace scotland with funding from the Scottish Government/UK Government Levelling Up Parks programme. Another case study from this programme is Nature Networks East Lothian.

Thanks to Anna Perks, Biodiversity Officer at Falkirk Council for providing information and assistance.  Images provided by Falkirk Council.