Park overhaul to create green heart in Livingston

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A RUN-DOWN central park is set to be overhauled in efforts to create a green heart in Livingston.

A total of £187,000 will be spent on upgrading Almondvale Park, situated near St John’s Hospital and on the banks of the River Almond.

Converting the park’s existing amphitheatre into a natural play area, installing new lighting and creating outdoor plazas with food outlets have been identified as key priorities.

A public consultation process carried out last year also found strong support for creating a boardwalk and interpretation boards about local wildlife, moving the park’s cycle path away from the road, and putting in extra seating and planting along the riverbank.

The improvements will be carried out between April next year and March 2016 under funding set aside by West Lothian Council.

The park is wedged between the West Lothian Civic Centre and Livingston Road. A study completed in 2011 said access routes in the park were in poor condition. Limited lighting, seating and bins, vandalised signs and overgrown vegetation were all cited as problems.

The council intends to form a Friends of Almondvale Park group to help maintain the area and raise extra money for improvements.

Executive councillor for the environment Tom Conn said: “Community input into the project will be key to its success.

“The project will help us to revitalise the centre of Livingston, creating a high quality outdoor focal point to the town, with spaces for people to socialise, play and be physically active.

“Increasing the biodiversity of the riverbank will be good for wildlife and will also offer opportunities for learning and discovery. The River Almond is a valuable wildlife corridor and this project will highlight the river as a desirable destination for locals and visitors, helping to boost the local economy.

“Our overall aim is to transform the area into a safe, welcoming open space that is well integrated within the ‘green’ corridor and connected to the wider fabric of Livingston, providing a fitting environment for the Civic Centre and somewhere local people can be proud of.”

A small area within the park has been released for development. Re-instating the park’s putting green and canoeing jetties on the river and combining the green space with nearby Howden Park to create a larger town park are possibilities.

Craigshill Community Council secretary Rose McAuley welcomed the overhaul of the park. She said: “Nothing has been done to it for quite a long time. A lot of people go down there. Children go to play and people walk their dogs.

“Once it’s finished, it’s going to be even more attractive. The improvements will be very much appreciated by the people around here.”