The Heartlands Development at Whitburn has reached a major milestone, with work set to begin on the construction of a new, privately funded M8 Junction. The new junction will provide the main access route to Heartlands, a £650m business, retail, residential and leisure destination, providing around 4,000 new jobs.
The developer, Ecosse Regeneration, has signed contracts with TransportScotland and Balfour Beatty allowing work to begin on the site. Funded by The Royal Bank of Scotland plc, the new intersection will be the first full motorway junction in Scotland to be entirely privately funded. Planning approval for the new Junction 4a with park and ride facility was granted in January 2009. Work is expected to last for approximately 12 months.
The Heartlands Development comprises 610 hectares (2.32 square miles) of land directly to the west of Whitburn, on the site of the former Polkemmet Colliery, one of Scotland’s largest deep mines, which ceased operation in 1985. It stretches just under 5km from north to south and is a little over 3km at its widest point. The development is sited halfway between Scotland’s two biggest cities, approximately 37km from Glasgow in the west and 34km from Edinburgh in the east.
One of the largest reclamation and regeneration projects in Europe, the Heartlands Development currently includes plans for 2,000 homes, as well as leisure, education and community facilities. One of the driving forces behind the Heartlands development is the creation of a business park with more than 1.5 million sq ft of commercial space, creating future employment for around 4,000 people.
At the heart of the project are two golf courses, which have been designed by PGA Design Consulting (PGADC) as a memorial to one of the most revered golf course architects of all time, Donald Ross.
The Donald Ross philosophy
Scottish born, Donald Ross designed over 400 courses including Pinehurst No 2, which was the site of the 2005 US Open, and Oakland Hill Country Club where the 2004 Ryder Cup was held. At the heart of these designs was a philosophy which has been central to the design of the Heartlands courses:
Donald Ross Memorial Golf Course
PGA Design Consulting (PGADC) has designed the complex to include 36 holes, driving range, practice areas and state-of-the-art clubhouse. PGADC worked closely with the Donald Ross Society to design a course which captures Donald’s architectural style, is a fitting memorial to him and complements the landscape
The east course has been designed to be a wooded parkland, like a Scottish Pinehurst, which is very in keeping with the surroundings. The west course will be the more difficult of the two and has been designed like a traditional Scottish heathland challenge.
Both courses are almost 7,000 yards in length and are built to the highest international standards, with proper drainage allowing maximum play throughout the year.
From the very highest point of the course, you can see over ten counties, taking in views of Arthur’s Seat, The Pentlands, Edinburgh Castle and the Ochil Hills.
When complete, the course will vie for the title of the ‘greenest’ course in the world, thanks to the extensive use of recycled materials in the creation of its fairways, bunkers and greens. Alex Muirhead, Development Director for Heartlands, has already received an award for his work on the courses
Built up from the land
The courses have been designed with the Heartlands ethos in mind – to replicate the surrounding natural environment as much as possible. Even the fairways and grass at the top of the courses have been shaped to replicate the natural undulation of the Pentland hills in the background. The fringes of the course have been designed to merge with the naturally occurring wetlands surrounding Fauldhouse Forest
Recycled materials will be used on as many parts of the course as possible. Each course is being built using a new technique which combines screened inert colliery waste shale from the coal bings with high quality locally produced compost. This avoids importing tonnes of new topsoil, reducing costs and helping the environment.
The organic green compost layer on top of the recycled colliery waste is made from tree and shrub prunings and grass trimmings. This type of compost improves soil and root fertility.
The colliery waste and organic green have combined well, allowing lush grass to grow, and have provided the ground with a perfect level of percolation to allow rain water to drain away quickly.
Rocks and boulders, which were extracted from the open cast work, will be used as features on the course.
Young trees which were growing around the site have been carefully nurtured in a nursery and are now being replanted around the course. Sand from the site will be used for the bunkers
Not only will the actual golf courses be among the finest in the country but the surroundings will be visually stunning. From certain parts on the Donald Ross Memorial Courses there will be a panoramic vista possibly unrivalled in this part of Scotland. Hole 7 of the west course, for example, has been designed so that from the tee your aiming point is Arthur’s Seat.
Natural looking ponds and wetlands have been created covering a total area of approximately 30 ha. and these have been designed in such a way that the golf course seamlessly blends into the natural surroundings of Polkemmet Moor and beyond.
Holes 2 and 3 have been shaped, seeded and grassed, as have the adjacent roughs and hills. This allows for continual monitoring and testing of the drainage, soil mixes etc to ensure that the best solutions are in place while building the rest of the courses.
This research and development will bring a level of “future proofing” to a golf course construction project already hailed as a success in the golfing community.
Holes 4 – 8 are at advanced stages, with the processed material having been laid, however Ecosse are concentrating on the tees, bunkers and greens before seeding the fairways. This allows for movement of plant and machinery between holes without running over and possibly destroying lush fairways.
Rough, initial shaping of holes further south of the site (10 – 15 etc on the west course) is ongoing, as is the processing of the newly discovered friable sandstone. Friable basically means the ability to reduce a solid substance into smaller pieces with little effort.
Overall construction of the golf courses is expected to take 2 – 3 years, with a further year for the grass to bed in. As yet no decision has been made regarding fees or membership.
Within the development there will be a beautiful, state-of-the-art clubhouse along with a 350-bedroom, 4-5 star hotel. It will benefit from having the finest changing facilities, steam-rooms, plunge baths and Members’ Club, and a ‘History of Golf Museum and Visitors Centre’ is also being considered
The clubhouse itself stands sentinel over the 9th, 18th, 27th and 36th greens – the four finishing holes – and a huge panoramic area affords a perfect view of the action – so the clubhouse is ‘truly’ within the course
Work began on site in 2004 to decontaminate and remediate the land of the former mining site, the size of 1,000 football pitches. With sustainability at the core of the Heartlands development, Ecosse Regeneration has taken great care not only to minimise disruption to the environment and ecology, but also to find ways of improving the local environment and ecology of the site itself and the surrounding communities. The once brownfield site is becoming a showcase for brownfield regeneration. The project was recognised at this year’s RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) Planning Awards inLondonwith a commendation in the Regeneration and Renewal Category.
Balfour Beatty commenced the first phase of housing infrastructure earlier this year, and it is anticipated that Taylor Wimpey will be on site this autumn to start work on construction of the first 99 homes. Initial preparation work on the golf courses has also begun.
Minister for Transport and Veterans, Keith Brown said: “I am delighted to see work soon to begin on a new motorway junction on the M8 – the key route connecting Scotland’s biggest cities, providing access to a major new residential and economic development.
“The Scottish Government is determined to see Scotland prosper. That is why I’m delighted TransportScotland has been able to work with the developer to ensure the role our roads can play in ensuring Heartland’s success is maximised, and help to enhance access across our key economic centres in supporting Scotland’s sustainable economic growth.”
Alex Muirhead, Heartlands Development Director for Ecosse Regeneration, said: “Heartlands is one of the largest regeneration projects taking place in Europe and it is one which will help to drive the economy of Scotland’s central belt. Given the scarcity of regeneration development in Scotland over the past five years, we now have a fantastic opportunity to renew this vast plot of former mining land, and create a vibrant and sustainable community that will attract high-quality skilled employment to the area and stimulate investment in support of the economic growth and development of the region. The construction of the new junction marks the first significant step towards making this dream a reality.”
Adam Thomson, Managing Director Central Scotland Region, Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering said: “We are delighted to be awarded this contract. This important development will breathe life back into the area and the completion of the junction will be a major step in this process. We have been involved with Ecosse Regeneration and TransportScotlandin the development of the junction design from the start and look forward to working together to successfully deliver the project.”
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