The Inner Forth Landscape Initiative (IFLI) is a Heritage Lottery Funded Landscape Partnership Scheme which focuses on the upper Firth of Forth. IFLI covers an area of 202 km2 including: the river, estuary and inter-tidal zone; the floodplain and coastal margins; and the settlements on both sides of the Forth from the historic Old Stirling Bridge to Blackness Castle and Rosyth. The day to day running is undertaken by a small team of staff hosted by RSPB Scotland, the lead partner.
The formal partnership originally involved three local authorities (Stirling, Clackmannanshire and Falkirk Councils), three public bodies (Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), SEPA and Historic Scotland), and three NGOs (RSPB Scotland, Sustrans and the Central Scotland Green Network Trust). The development phase which included the production of the Landscape Conservation Action Plan was supported by partners and grants from Forth and Lomond LEADER, Heritage Lottery Fund and CSGN Development Fund.
The primary target audience is the 77,000 people living within the boundary of the Initiative, and the 144,000 people who live within a few miles of this area. Even greater numbers travel through the landscape via major roads such as the M9 and the rail network on a daily basis. The delivery timeframe is between May 2014 and April 2018.
The vision is for the natural, cultural and historical wealth of the area to be revealed, valued, enhanced, and made accessible to both the people who live here and visitors. Kate Studd (IFLI Programme Manager) says
It’s about conserving, enhancing and celebrating this unique and special landscape. We want people to know about this place and feel pride in having it, knowing about its importance for wildlife and cultural heritage.
Outcomes and Outputs
The outcomes of the Initiative fall into four themes and each one resonates strongly with CSGN ambitions:
- Conserving and restoring the built and natural heritage features that define the Inner Forth Landscape
- Increasing community participation in our local heritage
- Increasing access to the landscape and learning about its heritage
- Increasing training and development opportunities in heritage skills
To deliver these there are fifty discrete but inter-related projects. These span the whole area and many directly contribute towards the development of the CSGN. For example the Wildlife Connections project connects farmers and land managers with the wildlife that uses their land and seeks to re-establish corridors such as hedgerows to increase the variety of wildlife in the area. Another project A Walk to the Wetlands enhances a network of paths around Black Devon Wetlands, a new nature reserve for people and wildlife established by RSPB with support from IFLI between Alloa and Clackmannan. Across the whole landscape, the IFLI team and its partners are facilitating volunteering, training, events and community involvement opportunities to develop a lasting legacy, local skills and local profile.
Effective partnership working is a crucial aspect of the IFLI approach and is also its core strength. All partners are contributing to the success of the initiative with six leading the delivery of one or more projects, often working with other IFLI partners via a project or thematically specific working group.
Our partnership is really good. It works well because our communication channels are open and we are honest with each other. Partners have really embraced what we are about and it’s great that several have gone above and beyond their own key interests to help deliver wider IFLI ambitions. Kate Studd (IFLI Programme Manager)
It is recognised that this degree of energy, enthusiasm and commitment at an organisational level is also very evident at a personal level. This was recognised at a review session held in May 2015 which highlighted the dedication across IFLI - from Board members to project staff right through to volunteers.
A key early output from this strong partnership is new ways of working with formerly disparate groups. This brings together people with different skillsets, experience and knowledge focussing energy on the Forth landscape, its wildlife and people.
40 of the Initiative’s projects are already underway and 4 have completed. Clackmannan Tower is now safer for public access, and the dramatic extent of the limekilns at Charlestown are now apparent after clearance of the overgrowing vegetation. New wildflower meadows and 3 community orchards have been planted. Conferences, archaeological digs, community research, wildlife identification recording days and schools learning events have all taken place.
The formal implementation phase of the Initiative has been running since the Summer of 2014. Reflecting of the huge ambition of the ILFLI, some of the 50 projects have progressed at a faster rate than others. This is a product of the complexity of the schemes and the time required to overcome issues, and in some instances, win additional funding.
An example of one project which has been proved difficult to deliver through the IFLI is The Missing Link at Manor Powis which aimed to provide an important safety upgrade to the National Cycle Network route 76 by creating an off road alternative at a busy roundabout between Stirling and Alloa. In this case, slow dialogue with landowners has delayed the project, and it is unlikely to be delivered within the timeframe of IFLI. However, members of the partnership are continuing to work to making the project happen, and are hopeful t that the project will eventually go ahead.
Over the first year, a key piece of learning gained was that the time to get projects up and running on the ground has been slower than anticipated. This was due to a combination of time required to set up the project, obtaining local permissions for works, securing community engagement, managing cash flow issues of small groups and community organisations, undertaking financial management and sourcing match funding.
Thanks to a pragmatic and flexible approach within a clear and understood system of governance, IFLI is managing to largely overcome the issues outlined above and has had a successful start. A key test now is to maintain the early momentum and push on. Over the next few years IFLI will seek to improve linkages and sharing between projects, improve external communications and profile, and crucial for the sustainability of the project, make progress in encouraging local people to get involved and take more ownership of the Initiative.