AN ambitious project to create an attractive green space in Barrhead town centre and reduce the risk of flooding at the same time is taking shape.

There have been big changes in the Walton Street area of Carlibar Park as a site that was once viewed as a blot on the landscape is given a new lease of life.

Waste ground at the back of the Asda store is being turned into a place where local people will be able to enjoy going for a stroll or saddling up on their bicycle.

The 100-metre-long site had been empty for decades and became a magnet for anti-social behaviour as it was used for underage drinking and drug-taking.

However, it is hoped the dramatic transformation will bring back salmon, sea trout and eel to the Levern Water, as well as encouraging new wildlife to move in.

The scheme, which comes with a £2.7million price tag, also involves moving part of the Levern Water by five metres to reduce the risk of flooding, offering greater protection for homes and businesses.

Work at the one-hectare site is being carried out by contractors AmcoGiffen Ltd and is ahead of schedule, with the green space set to be completed early in the new year.

Site agent Jack Buchanan is confident that local residents, who have had to put up with some disruption while the development gradually takes shape, will be very pleased when they see the end result.

He told the Barrhead News: “We began on site in June and hope to be finished by January.

“There will be benches put down so that people can enjoy the river because, before now, I don’t think they realised it was there.

“The ground was previously contaminated land and we have managed to treat it.

“Once we have put down the top soil, that should be the project completed.”

Barrhead News: The derelict site in Carlibar Park was very different back in July (left) compared to how it now looks (right)The derelict site in Carlibar Park was very different back in July (left) compared to how it now looks (right) (Image: Newsquest)

Led by East Renfrewshire Council, the scheme is being funded through £1.6m worth of investment from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and £1.1m from the Scottish Government.

Pupils at nearby Carlibar Primary School have been involved in surveying wildlife at the Levern Water and will also monitor the health of the river once the revamp is completed.

Whilst carrying out the renovation, workers found large numbers of old ceramic toilet bowls that had been abandoned following the closure of the former Shanks factory nearby.

Other unsightly litter and refuse which had been selfishly dumped there over the previous years has also been removed.

The project had been due to for completion by next summer but, having made good progress, those in charge are confident that this should now be achieved sooner.

It has also created a number of jobs locally, including work for a refugee who fled to Scotland to escape the conflict in his home country of Ukraine after Russian forces invaded.

Mr Buchanan added: “The project is about reconnecting people with nature and providing an amenity in the town centre which they can enjoy.”

Lucie Stewart, restoration specialist at SEPA, expects wildlife to flourish at the site once work has been completed.

She said: “By working closely with East Renfrewshire Council through the Water Environment Fund, we aim to improve the Levern Water and return it to a more natural river channel.

“We are delighted that the majority of works for the project have been completed, including the removal of an unused weir which was preventing fish accessing the Levern in Barrhead.”

A second weir on the Levern Water, approximately 1.5 kilometres downstream of the project, is due to be removed next year.

Barrhead News: These bird’s eye views of the site show how the Levern Water has been redirectedThese bird’s eye views of the site show how the Levern Water has been redirected (Image: Newsquest)

Ms Stewart added: “The work will transform a once-neglected riverside area, providing improved greenspace access for the local community, and will help to mitigate flooding.

“It will also bring back migratory fish such as sea trout and eel.”

Council chiefs have described the progress being made at the Carlibar Park site as “fantastic.”

A spokesperson said: “This project will transform this area of Barrhead.

“All of the river works have now been completed and the project is on track to be finished early next year.

“During the works, it has been exciting to discover that there is already a large quantity and variety of marine wildlife living in the river.

“It is hoped that the changes being made to the river, primarily the removal of the weir, will improve this situation further in the years ahead.”

The council has also praised Mr Buchanan and his team for involving the local community as the work has taken place.

“Throughout the project, the contractor AmcoGiffen has worked closely with the local community and has provided a wide range of learning opportunities for Carlibar Primary pupils,” added the spokesperson.

“We appreciate the patience the local community has had throughout this project and look forward to them being able to enjoy the area again once it is complete.

“Our thanks again go to our funding partners at SEPA and the Scottish Government, as this investment is going to make a real difference to this area of Barrhead.”