Helix Paths Design Reference Group

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Helix Paths Design Reference Group – ‘Built-in’ Path Adoption

How involving local people in path design leads to greater ‘ownership’ and paves the way for path adoption…


Name of Access Authority: Falkirk        

Name of group: Helix Paths Design Reference Group         

Location: Between Falkirk and Grangemouth              

Project: Development of 300 hectares of parkland linked by a ‘fit for purpose’path network centred around key themes of People, Place and Enterprise


Key points: Encouraging community involvement and adoption at the design, development and ‘stewardship’ stages

                        Links to other organisations plans and policies

                        Work jointly with other groups doing similar things

                        Working to a fully integrated project plan

                        Long term vision and ideas for the future


About the Helix Paths Design Reference Group

The Helix Paths Reference Group is a group of local people, walk leaders and professionals. The group sits under the wider Helix project and is overseen by Falkirk Community Trust. The overall project involves:

  • The creation of a parkland and visitor attraction linked by a new network of accessible paths.
  • The development of a new eastern entrance to the Forth and Clyde Canal.


Falkirk Community Trust is a registered charitable organisation which has a remit to safeguard the Helix ethos and deliver all phase one objectives (mostly physical development projects).

A fully integrated project plan delivers the key objectives for each theme through a series of ‘Routes to…’ programmes: Routes to Informed People, Creativity, Health, Enterprise, Influence and Partnership.

The paths take people to different areas of the Helix project site where particular activities can be undertaken and key attractions explored. For example, the paths in the north of the site link Abbotshaugh Woodland with its opportunities for bird watching etc, the central area paths provide access for watersports, outdoor events and recreation whilst the south paths give access to the site of a Roman Fort and a section of the Antonine Wall.

The Helix project has achieved the following major milestones as part of the plan to create a new Place:

  • Various planning applications were submitted and approved.
  • The new Helix South paths were opened to thepublic in June 2011. Over 600 people came along to the Beancross area to try out the paths. Significantly, in terms of ‘Adopt A      Path’ many confirmed interest in taking forward future activity on the South paths. Early activities have included outdoor fitness ‘boot camps’ Nordic walking and a Helix guided      bike ride.


In terms of the part of the plan to engage People and stimulate Enterprise the following has been achieved:

  • A local Helix advertising campaign ran on 20 local buses. A billboard poster was also displayed at Falkirk High Train Station.
  • The Helix Intermediate Labour Market programme welcomed its first recruits. Three      apprentices were employed on six-month contracts with Land Engineering in Helix South as part of their SVQ Level 2 in Landscaping whilst a fresh batch of 12 apprentices began a one-year contract on the Helix site in September 2011. This latest group are undertaking an SVQ Level 2 in Construction and are employed by Central  Scotland Forest Trust.
  • Helix ‘site-seeing’ bus tours began running from  July 2011. These are open to      members of the public. Helix volunteers have taken on the role of tour guides.
  • 350 people attended a ‘Helix Through the Looking Glass’ event in Abbotshaugh woodlands, resulting in the formation of a new stewardship group.
  • Preparations were made with Falkirk Council’s cycling officer for a pilot launch of a ‘Helix bike library’. This will also allow volunteers to patrol the path network and report back as required.
  • Presentations on the Helix were made to 16 community groups, all of whom expressed enthusiasm for the project. These groups also wanted to help look after ‘their’ new paths.
  • Partnerships have been developed with Caledonia Clubhouse and Forth Valley College      regarding path users surveys and data collection

Paths adopted for local people and visitors under the strapline of ‘Connecting Communities.

Finding resources (people, money, tools and materials, training, time)


Right from the start of the project one of the three key themes was people within a ‘living landscape’.

This idea built on previous projects particularly from those living around the Abbotshaugh and Cobblebrae Community Woodland area.

A Paths for All report ‘A Health Impact Assessment on the Abbotshaugh and Cobblebrae Paths in Falkirk’ published in August 2010 highlights this and the wide range of stakeholders involved.

The current Helix project is overseen by a Board of Directors made up from key stakeholder representatives and high calibre, local individuals co-opted to serve the Trust.

The project is being driven by a partnership of Falkirk Council, Scottish Canals (formerly British Waterways Scotland) and Central Scotland Forest Trust through Falkirk Community Trust.


The Helix is one of four UK projects supported by the Big Lottery Fund’s Living Landmarks Programme. Whilst not all groups with an interest in path network development and adoption will be able to access a funding package on this scale it does prove it can be done and is particularly attractive to funders where it can be demonstrated that a large number of people will benefit.

Over £300,000 was received from Sustrans to improve the Helix South Paths network.

Falkirk Environment Trust has offered £100,000 for paths.

The Helix Project has also received several donations from various groups including students at the nearby Forth Valley College.

The total budget for the Helix project, which is managed by Falkirk Community Trust, is £43.8m with £40.9m of this being dedicated to the delivery of the engineering, public art and canal link as part of the Capital Programme for the ‘Place’ elements. Procurement of the Capital Programme is managed by Falkirk Council and passes through their accounts.

Tools and materials

In the case of this project tools and materials have so far come as part of the overall development package.


The Helix Paths Reference Group had a visit to one of the National Paths Demonstration Sites at Oatridge College to see various aspects of good practice in path design and to learn how this could be applied to the Helix project. The group have been supported to undertake neighbourhood consultations and have hosted Helix consultant engineers on several walkabouts. Neighbourhood groups will be supported to promote a broad-based and sustainable approach to land management, maintenance and community safety. Members of the group now act as ‘Path Detectives’, often using mobile technology to alert the Helix project and Falkirk Council to potential problems. These can range from litter bins not being emptied to broken fences and low level vandalism. As a result, issues are dealt with promptly before further damage is done.


Getting such a large project off the ground takes a long time and effort. However, the Helix project benefited from being part of an even larger initiative ‘My Future’s in Falkirk’ (MFiF), a 10-year economic regeneration scheme.

The idea of the Helix was first mooted in 2003/04 when MFiF sketched out plans to build an ‘eco-park’ as part of the Falkirk Greenspace Initiative.

In the summer of 2005, Big Lottery launched its Living Landmarks funding programme to help communities improve their local environment. The MFiF partners decided to submit a bid on behalf of the Helix.

The first Helix bid was submitted to the Big Lottery Fund in early 2006. In August that year, Big Lottery awarded the Helix a £250,000 development grant to work up a stage 2 submission. This would enable the Helix to complete nationally for a grant of between £10 million and £25 million.

The news the project partners was hoping for finally came in November 2007 when it was announced that the Helix had been awarded the maximum £25 million grant. This was the single biggest lottery award ever given in Scotland.

The whole of 2008 and much of 2009 were spent finalising the phase one technical design and business plan.

Over the next 10 to 15 years, previously under-used land will be transformed into an exciting, new, community greenspace.

Plans for the Future

In The National Planning Framework for Scotland 2, the Scottish Government has set out its aspiration to create a Central Scotland Green Network which will deliver real change in the quality of the environment.

The Helix has been identified as a key element of the network, which aims to make Central Scotland a better place for people to live. Other key objectives are to promote biodiversity and help Scotland adapt to climate change.

The project, in partnership with CVS, will deliver structured volunteering opportunities including minor maintenance on the path network. The Helix wants people from all walks of life to play an active part in the project.

Lessons Learned

A key role for the Helix project is to establish and build the capacity of Helix volunteers to work in partnership with Falkirk Community Trust which will assume responsibility for the management, maintenance and ongoing development of the Helix site.    


1.         Strong political commitment at local, regional and national level was avital driver. Bid to BLF was unlikely to be successful without this..

2.         Local knowledge of how a path network is likely to be used at different times of year by locals and visitors.

3.         Working with local people from start gave ‘ownership’ leading to greater ‘adoption’ of the paths network.

4.         The Helix brought in many different partners not just ‘the usual suspects’ and has led to a strong partnership attractive to potential funders.


Further information: www.thehelix.co.uk


National Planning Framework for Scotland 2 http://scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/278232/0083591.pdf


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