A BLUEPRINT for local green spaces and public buildings was launched at Forres Town Hall.
The Forres 2020 Vision Community Action Plan follows two years of public consultation events based around the Planning For Real Process.
Working group member Ewen Watson introduced the 24-page document and thanked all of the contributors.
He said: “Prioritising local issues in this way has empowered our community.
“So many groups and individuals have worked together and cooperated to come up with this vision.
“We hope we can keep moving things forward to achieve the aims set out.”
Ewen explained the process was started by Forres Community Council in 2015, who helped build a 3D map of the town to stimulate ideas and discussion about local issues.
The map was exhibited in a number of public venues including schools where viewers were invited to stick flags with a note on the parts they wanted to highlight.
More than 400 people visited the map exhibitions and left 3,500 comments. This data was collected and analysed before being prioritised at more community events.
The top four priorities were taken forward with the titles ‘Environment, Sustainability’, ‘Leisure and Tourism’ and ‘Traffic, Transport and Access’ and ‘Facilities and Services’.
Environment was the first priority, with 1429 flags, including concerns about woodland maintenance and a suggestion that an orchard should be created.
Leisure was next with 889 flags. Requests included a skateboard park, an outdoor gym, an adventure playground for 6-12-year-olds, a camp site and/or a youth hostel.
Transport was the third most important priority for attendees with 746 flags. Parking and speeding issues were highlighted with calls for an improved bus service, more cycle lanes and traffic lights.
Finally, facilities were marked by 486 flags. Locals also want better mobile phone signals and a community notice board, amongst other things.
The action plan nominates groups to take the ideas forward.
Varis Club member Norman Thomson gave his verdict on the project.
He said: “It’s great to see the public spirit produce something as thoughtful as this. It comprehensively covers every aspect of Forres and it gives the townspeople targets.”
Sanquhar pond improvement volunteer Brian McDonald agreed: “It’s a wonderful project that has engaged a lot of people. It’s made folk stop and think about their surroundings. We have a say now in where we want our community to be in the future which has not happened before on this scale.”
However, he added: “There are some oversights in the document. Sanquhar came top in six of the eight prioritisation categories at the meetings but this is not reported. There is no information about how the votes were cast.”
The Forres 2020 Vision will link to Moray Council’s Local Development Plan and Open Space Strategy for Forres. It will also inform Moray Community Planning Partnership’s strategy for 2026.
As such, the document includes relevant information from these including: between 2001 and 2011, the Forres population rose by 11 per cent; nearly 50 per cent of the population is over 45; a quarter of residents are over 65; and 18 per cent are retired.
The local authority has identified opportunity for residential, commercial, industrial or/and retail opportunities at Caroline Street, the former bus depot on North Road, Cathay Care Home, Edgehill Road, the former auction hall on Tytler Street and Whiterow.
It also states that most households in Forres are within 400 metres of a good open space audited site. However, areas at Pilmuir, Drumduan Park, Forbeshill, St Leonards Road and Woodside drive are not.
Former Forres community councillor, Colin Lipscomb, criticised the Action Plan.
He said: “The document states that Leanchoil Hospital is ‘appropriate residential or business use’. It should also mention that it has a possible future in local healthcare as suggested by the contributors.
“It also suggests Castlehill health centre is suitable for residential or business use. That decision has already been made too, despite the fact that both buildings were built on Common Good land.
“Furthermore, the 3D map shows the exit to the new train station car park as directly opposite Market Street. A roundabout there would have prevented lorries going up the High Street and made it easier for them to join the bypass safely.”
Pick up your copy of the Forres 2020 Vision Action Plan at the FACT office on 1 Leask Road.