After 30 years running the Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre, a site owned by CalaChem in the heart of industrial Grangemouth, the Scottish Wildlife Trust has taken the difficult decision to step back from managing the site. The facility has reached the point where significant investment would be needed to keep it open in its current form, but a consultation is now underway to assess whether there is interest from groups, organisations or businesses to find an alternative way for the site to remain open to the community.
The four-hectare site has undergone a significant transformation under the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s management, changing from a derelict railway siding into a green oasis. What was once an abandoned area of sparse grassland, scrub and marshland is now home to a mosaic of habitats that support a wide variety of wildlife, from dragonflies and frogs to butterflies and bullfinches. But ageing infrastructure, including the temporary building that houses the visitor facilities and education space, is nearing the end of its expected life and would require significant investment for the centre to remain safely open to the public.
Over the next five weeks, the Trust will run a public consultation to determine whether there is an appetite for Jupiter to become a community-run asset from April 2024. Anyone interested is invited to attend one of the consultation meetings taking place in October and to submit a response to a community survey.
Jo Pike, Chief Executive, said: “We are very proud of what has been achieved at Jupiter over the last three decades. Not only has the site been transformed for wildlife, it has also provided thousands of people with opportunities to engage with and learn about nature. However, as a charity with finite resources, we sometimes need to make difficult decisions about what to prioritise.
“After careful consideration over a period of more than a year, we have come to the conclusion that we could have greater impact by redeploying staff to our other nearby wildlife reserves and focusing on the new ways we are helping communities to engage with nature across Scotland.
“For example, we’ll be able to progress a planned coastal restoration project at Alloa Inches just up the Forth Estuary from Grangemouth, which will benefit curlews and other wetland birds. We’ll be able to do more work with volunteers at our other wildlife reserves in Falkirk such as Bo’Mains Meadow and Carron Glen. And we’ll be able to develop further resources for teachers and community leaders that will help them to inspire and facilitate action for nature across the country.
“The wildlife that calls Jupiter home will continue to be there but we are keen to explore opportunities that would allow local people to carry on enjoying the site as well.”
The Trust is actively exploring options with The Conservation Volunteers, who also use the site, to identify potential ways in which their activities could continue.
Debbie Adams, Operations Director for Scotland at TCV, said: “At TCV we have enjoyed working in partnership with the Scottish Wildlife Trust for many years and together we are actively exploring potential options that would enable TCV to remain on site.”
Angus Gray, Managing Director of CalaChem, said: “We have been proud to host Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre and would be happy to speak with community-based organisations who would be interested in running the site.”
Before the pandemic, the site welcomed up to 5,000 children each year, providing opportunities for them to engage with and learn about nature. The Trust’s Jupiter Wildlife Watch group (a nature club for children aged 8 to 13 years), which has operated from the site, will be relocated to the nearby Muiravonside Country Park Visitor Centre from November.
Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre will remain open until 10 November, when it will close to public access.
For more information on the public consultation, including a link to the consultation survey, visit scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/consultation
1. Why has the Scottish Wildlife Trust taken the decision that it can no longer manage the site?
After 30 years of operation, Jupiter has reached the point where significant investment would be needed to keep it open in its current form. Ageing infrastructure, including the temporary building that houses the visitor facilities and education space, is nearing the end of its expected life and would require significant investment for the centre to remain safely open to the public. It has not been feasible to invest in upgrading the facility in the past due to a one-year rolling lease having been in place for many years with the landowners. For business reasons connected with the past operation of the site by its owners, a long-term lease was never an option, meaning that the Scottish Wildlife Trust did not have security of tenure. CalaChem has now confirmed they would be willing to review this arrangement for a future occupant, which we hope will be helpful during the community consultation process.
Ultimately, as a charity with finite resources, we sometimes need to make difficult decisions about what to prioritise. The decision about Jupiter has not been an easy one but has been made because we believe we can have a greater impact by redeploying staff to our other nearby wildlife reserves, as well as focusing on the new ways we are helping communities to engage with nature across Scotland.
2. What efforts have been made to find another organisation to take over the site?
The Trust is actively exploring options with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), who also use the site. Whilst TCV are unable to commit to managing the reserve, we are looking to identify potential ways in which their activities could continue on site.
The Trust has launched a public consultation to determine whether there is interest from other community groups, organisations or businesses in running the site in order for it to remain open to the public.
3. How can interested parties and members of the community contact the Scottish Wildlife Trust to express interest and ask for more information?
We would encourage everyone that is interested in the future of Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre to submit responses to the consultation survey. This can be done online or via a paper form available from Jupiter. A series of events has been planned in October that will provide an opportunity for interested parties to ask any questions they have. Further information including a link to the survey and the schedule of events can be found at https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/consultation
4. How large an investment is required to upgrade infrastructure on the site?
The capital investment to replace the building with a modern education and engagement centre would very quickly run into the hundreds of thousands of pounds. Some of the access infrastructure such as the boardwalks over the ponds are also in need of replacement.
5. Can individuals, groups or businesses make donations to help keep the site open?
The Scottish Wildlife Trust is not seeking financial support to keep the site open as the decision has been made to redeploy our staff elsewhere and step back from managing the site for the reasons outlined above.
6. What will happen to the wildlife at the site if it closes?
At this stage, the landowners have indicated that they would not envisage making changes to the site, so we would expect that the site remains a valuable habitat for local wildlife.
7. What will happen to the groups that use Jupiter as a meeting or outdoor education space?
The Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Jupiter Wildlife Watch Group will relocate its regular meetings to the Muiravonside Visitor Centre.
Unfortunately, other groups that have previously used Jupiter will need to find an alternative site.
8. What will happen to the staff based at the site?
There will be no redundancies made as a result of this development. The staff office and storage space will relocate to a new location from March 2024 (exact location to be confirmed).
9. What will happen to the volunteers who work at the site?
Where practical, volunteers will be given the opportunity to work at other reserves in the area.