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An innovative nature park project in Falkirk has won two awards at the prestigious Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning.

The Carron Dams Local Nature Reserve not only won the public voted People’s Choice Award, but was crowned Overall Winner at the Scottish Government accolades that celebrate achievements in Scottish planning.

The partnership project has helped transform a former industrial site into an ecologically-rich habitat that people enjoy visiting, while engaging locals in the area’s fascinating history. Falkirk Council worked alongside the Central Scotland Green Network Trust (CSGNT), Larbert High School, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Carron Dams Local Nature Reserve Management Group and Ratho Byres Forge to develop and deliver the award winning project.  

CSGNT managed many of the place-making elements of the project, enlisting the help of Larbert High School which has been heralded as a key partner in the project’s success. Pupils from the school worked with local volunteers, history enthusiasts and the management group to design three distinctive eye-catching sculptures that celebrate the sites industrial past and its current use as a place for nature to thrive.

Jon Reid, Rector at Larbert High School said: “We feel honoured to work with such a supportive group of partners and to play our part in conserving, developing and bringing to life part of our local heritage.

“Projects such as these provide our young people with an opportunity to express their talents and develop their skills for learning, life and work within a very unique environment and context. The passion and commitment they displayed throughout their involvement is testament to the inspirational people they worked alongside and everyone involved should feel very proud of their achievements.”

CSGNT aims to drive forward the delivery of the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN), an initiative set to benefit the 3.8 million people living in the area. Michael Ewart, Development Officer at CSGNT, explains how projects such as the Carron Dams provide opportunities to engage communities in the development and use of locally important assets.

He said: “The innovative approach to creating a sense of place at this former industrial site generated high levels of public interest in a previously underused area, and the pupils at Larbert High School really helped widen community engagement, leading to additional events to reconnect locals with the space and its heritage.

“The CSGN aims to provide high quality physical links to join communities and greenspaces together, and we are delighted that the judging panel and the public both agree that the Carron Dams Local Nature Reserve is a winner in this regard.”

Rhona Geisler, Director of Development Services at Falkirk Council said: “We are delighted that the Falkirk area featured significantly at last week’s award ceremony. We had three projects shortlisted and, in gaining the overall prize for quality in planning, walked away with four awards.

“We are extremely grateful for the hard work of our staff and the support of partner organisations that helped to fund and deliver these award winning projects.  

“Finally, we are especially grateful to members of our communities who voted for the Carron Dams project in large numbers.  This innovative project went on to win both the Peoples Vote and the Overall Winner. Clearly this means a lot to our communities and this is the best kind of feedback we can receive as a Council.  This demonstrates our determination to achieve the highest standards in delivering planning projects in our area.”

The Carron Dams Local Nature Reserve was once a reservoir that supplied water to the Carron Company iron works, considered by many to be the forefront of the Scottish Industrial Revolution with its products traded and shipped worldwide. The nature reserve is now a ‘Dam Fine Place’ to visit with a fantastic wetland full of wildlife that people can enjoy and explore.