Forth Valley Royal Hospital case study
Forth Valley Royal Hospital, Stirlingshire
Forth Valley Royal Hospital is the largest NHS construction project ever built in Scotland and one of the most modern and well equipped hospitals in Europe. PFI funded, the £300m facility was opened in August 2010. The grounds and adjacent woods are being developed for the health and well-being of both the hospital and local community.
Integration within the existing landscape and making the most of its assets has been a key feature of this large-scale hospital development. Development agreements under Section 75 (equivalent to Section 106 in England & Wales) required that the PFI developer maintains and enhances the existing natural environment and they also designated a fund of £250,000 for on-going management. Challenge funding of £100,000 from the Forestry Commission Scotland’s programme ‘Woods In and Around Towns’ (WIAT) has been added to this.
The Landscape Master plan prepared as a project requirement included the restoration of the attractive parkland grounds of the nearby former 'Mental Hospital' and clearance of the invasive rhododendron which was obscuring the loch below. Paths for use by local walkers and cyclists are also being improved as part of an integrated Green Network policy.
There are plans to develop 40 hectares of adjacent mixed plantation owned by the hospital as a place for health and well-being, to be managed by Forestry Commission Scotland on lease. Initially this will mean improving access with all-weather paths with help from the Central Scotland Forest Trust.
A Community Ranger, whose role is focused on community engagement and outreach, works on site 2 days per week managing the woods, liaising with community groups and local schools and delivering the 'Branching Out' programme for mental health.
The project is characterised by a strategic and holistic approach to its development which has encompassed every stage of the process, from initial planning, with the preparation of a site master plan, through to its long term management and aftercare, with the establishment of a fund to cover maintenance costs.
What are the health benefits?
Both the new hospital and the local community will benefit from the improvements made to the parkland, the path network and the local woods. There is already greater provision of green space for gentle and vigorous exercise. Plans for the adjacent woods will develop this further.
The hospital has much new planting in its immediate environs, in the car parks, and in the internal courtyards. The hospital also looks out over panoramic views of the Clyde and Forth Canals, and the Lomond and Ochil Hills. Views of the natural world have been found to improve recovery times, as well as making a better working environment for staff.
The 'Branching Out' programme for mental health patients offers regular activities in a woodland setting, including nature conservation, art, exercise and relaxation. This can improve mental well-being and physical health, provide daily structure and purpose, offer new skills and provide opportunities for socialising. Working in a small group in a natural environment offers an alternative to clinical settings at very low cost and can facilitate improvements in social skills.
A view of the community ranger’s work
“Gordon Harper has already run two Branching Out courses of 12 weekly sessions. He teaches basic outdoors skills like responsible fire-lighting, camp woodwork, team working and they work towards the John Muir Individual Discovery Awards. Everyone completed both courses and remarked how much they had enjoyed the time, so Gordon sees that as a great result.
It is important for participants not to be left unsupported after these courses, so they are encouraged to continue with John Muir and British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.
Gordon has found local community groups and the primary school particularly enthusiastic about the project”.
- Creative use of Section 75 funds from new development can enable large-scale projects which are well integrated with the building programme.
- Having a dedicated Community Ranger embeds the new project in the local scene, welcomes people into the new space and begins to realise its potential.