Gleniffer Braes Country Park occupies 526 ha of urban fringe countryside on the southern edge of Paisley. It is a linear park, extending from the Macdonald Walks and Robertson car park in the west to Brownside Braes in the east. It consists of open and scrub moorland, woodland and hill farming areas, and lies within easy access of the communities of Paisley, Johnstone, Elderslie and Barrhead.
Since its creation in 1980, Gleniffer Braes Country Park has suffered from under investment and a lack of resources. The Country Park has no catering facilities, no public toilets, no dedicated interpretative staff and, compared to other country parks, a restricted programme of events and activities. The only existing visitor facilities in the Country Park are at Glen Lodge, where there is a ranger base and limited visitor accommodation. As a result of this limited investment, use of the Country Park is largely restricted to the local community and the Country Park struggles to reach its potential as a resource that serves the wider community.
In 2009, Golder Associates was appointed to develop a Strategic Enhancement Plan for the Gleniffer Braes Green Network. The brief was to devise a management framework for Gleniffer Braes which would enable the area to achieve its potential both as a local resource and as an integral part of the wider Glasgow and Clyde Valley Green Network.
The Strategic Enhancement Plan for the Gleniffer Braes Green Network identified a lack of coordinated recreational facilities as a major shortcoming. To address this problem it recommended the creation of a mountain bike trail network. Significant amounts of uncontrolled mountain biking was already taking place at Gleniffer Braes, so this initiative was intended to help to reduce collateral damage to the area's environment, as well as generating health and potential economic benefits.
Renfrewshire Council was keen to involve the Brownside Farm site in any plans for the development of Gleniffer Braes Country Park. Located on the eastern side of the Country Park, this traditional farm steading complex had lain vacant since the last tenant moved out in September 2009. In reviewing its options for the buildings, Renfrewshire Council recognised that the sustainable regeneration of the property could reap a range of economic, social and environmental benefits for the people of Renfrewshire. A number of recreational uses had been suggested and it was clear that enhanced facilities here could act as a community hub that would benefit the wider Gleniffer Braes Green Network and act as a demonstration site for the wider Central Scotland Green Network.
In 2010, Renfrewshire Council commissioned Aedas Architects to explore the feasibility of creating formalised mountain bike trails at Gleniffer Braes Country Park. This network would be serviced through a range of trail head hub facilities at a regenerated Brownside Farm complex.
Working with Cycletherapy and the Tourism Resources Company, Aedas Architects conducted a critical appraisal of the strategic context for producing a new mountain biking facility at Gleniffer Braes. It assessed competition from surrounding mountain bike trails, population catchment, local community links and accessibility.
An earlier consultation was conducted in 2009 as part of the development of the Strategic Enhancement Plan. It revealed that the creation of new facilities at Gleniffer Braes could potentially cause conflicts with existing land uses. For example, tenant farmers were concerned about the effect of increased visitor numbers on grazing animals. To overcome any such issues Aedas Architects conducted a selective and targeted consultation with key stakeholders.
The final report proposed the creation an extensive network of trails on new and existing paths - including green, blue and red standard challenges. To overcome the spatial difficulties posed by the Country Park's linear shape, trail designs used a cloverleaf hub concept. The final report also outlined seven options for redeveloping the Brownside Farm and each design was presented along with phasing options and estimated costs.
The community consultation and critical appraisal demonstrated that there was community support and demand for the development. However, Renfrewshire Council has found the cost of creating such a facility to be challenge in a period of financial cutbacks and staff reductions.
This project has the potential to encourage recreation and active travel, and promotes the regeneration of under used land. However, it also demonstrates the problems of achieving large scale enhancements to the green network where those enhancements are accompanied by significant capital costs.
Renfrewshire Council has received approaches from local mountain bike users with a view towards creating a users' group. This group would take on responsibility for the provision and management of mountain biking facilities at Gleniffer Braes Country Park, thus easing the financial burden on Renfrewshire Council. Copies of the feasibility study report have been provided and formal meetings with Renfrewshire Council are anticipated.
|2910||CSGN Development Fund||30,000|