The Forth Valley region must act immediately if it is to successfully address transport and economy challenges and lay the foundations for future growth and sustainability, according to a new report.
Three ‘Big Moves’ will drive quick wins for the region and change its path for the better, says Bridging Divides, Connecting Communities, the final report from the Forth Valley Connectivity Commission. These are: changes in how planning decisions are made; redeveloping and reenergising urban centres to become attractive places to live, work and socialise; and enhanced walking and cycling routes and public transport networks.
A flagship proposal in the report is the creation of ForthNet, a regional Bus Rapid Transit network, which would provide frequent, reliable connections between communities in Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, and Stirling, and major places of work, education, and public services.
The report pulls no punches in its description of the current state of the Forth Valley which – like many other localities – has built environments that are “outdated, car-dominated [with] declining retail”.
It urges key stakeholders in the region to challenge the status quo and change current practices if the Forth Valley is to catch up with similar regions in Europe.
Greater collaboration between the region’s three authorities is essential, the report argues, if the Forth Valley is to capitalise on major inward investments such as the Falkirk Growth Deal and Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal. Only once competition between the region’s centres is set aside, and economic challenges considered from a regional perspective, can meaningful changes be made that benefit the entire Forth Valley and all its communities, according to the Commission – of which Lynn Harris and Christie Frail from FV Chamber are both members of.
Bob Duff, Chair of the Forth Valley Connectivity Commission, said: “The Forth Valley is at a crossroads. Landmark investment is catalysing the region’s journey from one dominated by traditional industry to new, low-carbon ways of working. Our mission was to consider what changes to connectivity are necessary to ensure that this transition leaves no one behind and that new opportunities are accessible for all.
“The Forth Valley Connectivity Commission’s recommendations are bold but they represent the scale of thinking needed for the Forth Valley to maintain pace with similar regions elsewhere in the world. If the Forth Valley is going to seize this exciting opportunity for its people, then the time to act is now.”
The Commission’s final report was presented to the region’s three local authority leaders at a launch event at the University of Stirling Transport Hub on Monday 27 November.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Cllr Cecil Meiklejohn, Leader of Falkirk Council, said: “This is an extensive piece of work and we offer our sincere thanks to the Commission for their efforts in producing a comprehensive look at how potential changes could shape the future of the Forth Valley area.
“Moving forward, we will look at the report in detail and ensure it is given a proper examination to ensure the best for our communities.”
Stirling Council Leader, Cllr Chris Kane said: “The Commission’s report spells out an ambitious vision for enhancing transport systems across Forth Valley to help unleash the region’s full economic potential and improve people’s lives.
“It has been developed following a detailed analysis of data, with evidence gathered from a wide range of stakeholders throughout the region, including communities, businesses, public transport providers and the third sector. I would like to thank the commission for their diligence and hard work.
“All the regional partners will now consider the recommendations and how they align with other key regional strategies. What is clear is we all need to work together with common purpose to deliver positive change for the people who live, work and study here.”
Cllr Ellen Forson, leader of Clackmannanshire Council, said: “I would like to thank the Commission for their hard work in compiling this report. Now is the time to reflect on its findings and how best to move forward, with a view to taking some actions that will deliver the best outcomes for our communities.
“We also have to consider this through formal governance and alongside the Forth Valley Regional Economic Strategy which is at an advanced stage of development.”
The independent Commission, founded in September 2021, brought together representatives of the local economy, local authorities, and academic expertise from the University of Stirling. The Commission’s secretariat was provided by the University of Stirling as part of Scotland’s International Environment Centre, which aims to develop the Forth Valley as a global exemplar of a net zero regional economy.
More information at Forth Valley Connectivity Commission | About | University of Stirling