It was once known as a centre of heavy industry, but the Scottish town of Falkirk has been named Britain’s most walking-friendly neighbourhood after reinventing itself as a haven of green space.
The town defeated nine other contenders from across England, Scotland and Wales to win the award, picking up 20 per cent of the 12,000 votes cast by members of the public.
Walking charity the Ramblers, which organised the competition, said concerted local efforts had led to the creation of a “remarkable” 383 miles of well-maintained and signposted paths.
Falkirk is now well known for its Helix Park and the Kelpies – two 30m high sculptures of horses’ heads which were completed in 2013 and now bring thousands of visitors to the area each year.
The Best Walking Neighbourhood Award recognises urban areas where councils and residents have improved local streets and routes so they encourage people to get around on foot.
The Ramblers said Falkirk Council had made life “easier and more enjoyable” for pedestrians by widening pavements, creating more off-road paths and linking routes in and around the town.
A planning standard introduced by the council states every house should be within 400m or five minutes’ walk of an open space, later reduced to just 300m for new developments.
More than 80 public nominations were received for the award, which is now in its second year. Ten finalists were chosen by a panel of expert judges before the winner was decided by a public vote.
While Falkirk emerged as the clear winner, Brockley in south-east London took second place, with the town of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire coming third.
Other places on the shortlist included the Scottish town of Elgin, the city centres of Cambridge and Brighton, the Deepings in Lincolnshire and the Welsh town of Aberystwyth.
Vanessa Griffiths, chief executive of the Ramblers, said Falkirk was a “fantastic example” of a place where “everyone is encouraged to walk whenever they set out on a journey, whether they are popping to the shops or going to work”.
She said: “Places where people walk regularly also have more connected communities.”