Once a centre of Scotland’s coal mining industry, the Levenmouth – a network of towns and villages where the River Leven meets the Firth of Forth – bears the scars of its industrial past.
Years of industry has led to the contamination of the river, impacting on water quality and the local fish population. Changes made to the river’s course, to increase its flow, has dramatically reshaped the landscape, whilst affecting local biodiversity and wildlife.
It is not just the local ecosystem which has suffered, but residents as well. The closure of the last coal mine, now more than 30 years ago, has seen an increase in deprivation and loss of local transport links.
Local rail services have shut down and bridges which once serviced industrial sites closed. Meanwhile, the physical barriers created by the contaminated land and the river had reduced transport connections even further leaving many with limited access to the surrounding towns and cities.
Now, Sustrans, through its Transport Scotland-funded Places for Everyone programme, is working as part of a coalition of public and private organisations including the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), to reverse the economic and environmental damage of de-industrialisation in the area.
Funding and support through Places for Everyone will help address the challenges of transport poverty and health inequalities in the Levenmouth area. By working to design a new network of paths between the Levenmouth settlements, the project will make it easier for people to access other communities and their resources by foot or by bike.
The new paths will open up travel choices for everyone by providing access for all and connections to local bus services and the Levenmouth Rail Link, which is set to be reopened by Transport Scotland, making it easier to get to workplaces in Dunfermline, Glenrothes and Edinburgh.
This, in addition to work being carried out by Scottish Natural Heritage and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, to restore biodiversity and repair environmental damage, along with Fife Council and Fife College to channel the ambitions and desires of local residents and students will hopefully see the area flourish and bloom once again.
The story of Levenmouth though is not unique. Many communities across the UK are still struggling with the legacy of de-industrialisation and the impact transport poverty brought about from the removal of rail and public transport services to towns and village.
Through Places for Everyone, Sustrans works with community development trusts, local authorities and others to help reverse this trend and create healthier, environmentally sustainable places with vibrant economies and communities that are safe and accessible for people to travel around by foot or wheel.
Gemma Mcclusky and Pauline Silverman will be discussing the Leven Project at the Healthy Streets Summit 2019. More details on the Leven Project are available at www.theleven.org.