Former coalfield sites set to have big environmental impact

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Two land reclamation projects on former coalfield sites are set to create woodland, lock up carbon and improve the environment for the benefit of wildlife and local communities.

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) has been working with a number of partners since 2016 to restore vacant and derelict land sites to a state fit for woodland creation.

The two latest sites – Mainshill, (nr Douglas) South Lanarkshire and Blairhouse, (north of Oakley) Fife, both formerly Scottish Coal sites, are being restored by Forestry and Land Scotland in partnership with the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust and the associated local planning authorities.

Robin Waddell, for FLS, said;

“These ambitious projects will contribute towards new woodland creation targets, lock up carbon, improve the environment and create greenspace for communities blighted by the legacy of opencast mining.

“At both of these sites the landforms and soils have been restored by Scottish Mines Restoration Trust working to our specification and now that that work has been completed and we have taken ownership of the sites we will start planting about 300,000 trees over the winter and into the spring of 2021 (depend on COVID-19 restrictions)

“As well as the new woodland, which will attract a wide range of wildlife, we’ll also be putting in place extensive walking and bridleway routes which will help to make both sites a valued recreation resource for local communities.”

The approved Land Management Plans for the sites includes a mix of new woodland with additional work to restore existing woodland.

At Mainshill, which the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust and South Lanarkshire Council has spent around £5.7 million to restore, FLS will plant around 76 hectares of trees and restore 20 hectares of existing woodland. The planting will mainly be productive conifers with an intimate mix of broadleaves but there will also areas of mixed and native broadleaves. Public access routes to various viewpoints are also to be incorporated.

At Blair House, where restoration work funded by both Fife Council and the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust has cost around £4 million, the resilience of the existing native woodland will be increased with the addition of 51 ha of new woodland, ranging from productive mixed conifer to wet woodland. 

Elements of these new woodlands will be registered to the Woodland Carbon Code, to independently verify the carbon captured by the trees as they grow.

Professor Russel Griggs, OBE, Chairman of Scottish Mines Restoration Trust said:

“When we first began this process, these sites were derelict, but they’ve now been completely transformed.

“We’ve ensured the local communities have been involved throughout the restoration process, and following this redevelopment, the sites will bring real value to those in the areas they are situated in.

“This transformation has been achieved thanks to all the parties involved who have worked together along the way to reach this positive outcome.”

From 2021, FLS will look to work with partners seeking to invest in the carbon capture and broader social and environmental benefits of innovative woodland creation projects.


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