Action research in Ardler
Ardler community group conducted community-led action research as part of the Demonstrating the Links Project in order to understand how the residents of Ardler valued and used new urban greenspace created by regeneration.
Ardler is one of eight community groups from across Scotland to have taken part in a ground-breaking two year research programme, Demonstrating the Links, which ran from August 2006 to March 2008. Each of the groups explored the impact of their greenspace on the local community. Ardler’s research project offers an effective community-led approach to assessing greenspace quality and aspirations across a whole neighbourhood.
Greenspace is defined as any vegetated land or water within or adjoining an urban area. This includes:
- green corridors – paths, disused railway lines, rivers and canals
- natural and semi-natural habitats
- amenity grassland, parks and gardens, outdoor sport facilities, playing fields and children’s play areas
- other functional greenspace e.g. cemeteries and allotments
- countryside immediately adjoining a town which people can access from their homes
- derelict, vacant and contaminated land which has the potential to be transformed into ‘places’ for people and nature
With the information gathered through community-led action research, the project group aimed to work with partners to better manage the area for the benefit of all. The project was carried out by a partnership that included the Ardler Environment Group, Ardler Urban Ranger and Ardler Village Trust.
Growth and development
Ardler in Dundee has been changed since the late 1990s by a massive regeneration programme. Over 1,000 new homes have been built to replace the original 1960s high density tower blocks. At the same time, the structure and shape of greenspace in the area has been altered to create woodland areas, play spaces, pocket parks, football pitches and a sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS).
The groups involved in the research wanted to find out about how a range of local people use and value the greenspace in Ardler, and to help plan its future development. They did this by:
developing baseline data on the quality of the greenspace, which can be used to indicate change to the greenspace and how it is being used
measuring what affect the new environment of Ardler Village is having on the lives of residents and visitors
discovering people’s aspirations for the greenspace with a view to create projects that will tackle problems or create something new and valid.
The research involved a community-led survey of the greenspaces in Ardler and GIS mapping of the results. Community members have been trained in the techniques and will be able to repeat the survey to monitor greenspace use and quality. Residents firstly identified all areas of greenspace, then formed small teams to assess the quality on a five point scale. A team of eight volunteers surveyed around 500 greenspaces during both winter and summer months in 2007.
In addition, the group used a questionnaire survey to learn about local use of greenspace and local opinions about Ardler. Around 200 residents took part in the survey.
Finally, discussion workshops were held with young people, school children and older residents to gain a fuller understanding of the issues raised by the questionnaire survey.
The survey of greenspaces showed that 90% of spaces were in satisfactory condition, rising to 96% in the summer months. However, some problems were identified, particularly involving changing management responsibility for some public and some private spaces as the regeneration progresses.
- The questionnaire survey showed that the main greenspace users were younger and older residents, and that the majority of people felt the spaces were in satisfactory condition.
- Although the quantity of greenspace was known to have decreased, most people felt it was in better condition, with particularly popular features being the wildlife areas and football pitches. However, one of the SUDS ponds was viewed as unkempt.
- Over 75% of residents surveyed said that greenspace had a positive impact on their health, describing psychological and physical activity benefits.
Lessons and learning
It was stated time and time again that the 'countryside feel' to the area left them feeling good. Over 75% said that the greenspaces made people more friendly to one another, while a similar percentage valued the opportunity to see wildlife in Ardler’s greenspaces. A further 25% said that greenspace encouraged them to undertake physical activity.
In terms of future aspirations, the questionnaires and workshops identified that residents wanted better maintenance of existing facilities and better facilities for young people. Strong demand for more seating and play areas was evident.
At the outset of the project, evaluation workshops showed that the group felt the project would be interesting and challenging. At the end of the work, all members reported improved confidence because of the positive feedback they had received from the community, and the opportunity to learn new skills such as running workshops, questionnaires or greenspace quality surveys. The project involved over 140 hours of volunteer time.
Download the original Ardler Village case study here or visit www.scdc.org.uk/what/community-led-action-research/demonstrating-links/ for more information on the Demonstarting the Links programme.