A PLAN to create ­Scotland's largest urban nature park has taken a big step forward.

The Seven Lochs Wetland Park will span the Glasgow and North Lanarkshire boundaries between Easterhouse and Coatbridge.

This week, it was awarded a £250,000 development grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

An application for a second Lottery grant of £4.2million will be submitted in due course.

The new park, the area of which has been described as a hidden heritage gem, takes its name from the seven lochs in the area.

It will include the medieval Provan Hall in Easterhouse, which is one of Glasgow's oldest buildings, and the woodland walks of Drumpellier Country Park on the edge of Coatbridge.

It will also include five local nature reserves, Iron Age ­archaeological sites and a ­network of paths.

The vision for the area ­includes setting out how its heritage buildings and nature reserves could be protected and improved to create a new visitor attraction of national significance.

New paths and visitor ­facilities are planned, along with a range of activities to help people enjoy, learn about and help to improve the area's heritage.

Scott Ferguson, development officer with Glasgow and Clyde Valley Green network partnership, said: "This HLF award is fantastic news for the Seven Lochs area.

"It recognises it is a great place for heritage and wildlife and that the area should be protected and improved so more people can enjoy and learn about it.

"We now want to work with local people to find out how plans for the Seven Lochs can help bring a range of benefits to communities in and around the park."

Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: "HLF is ­delighted to help move the Seven Lochs project ­forward as it brings real cohesion to the natural and built heritage of the region, reconnecting people with the ­natural heritage which, for many, lies overlooked on the doorstep."

Liz Cameron, Glasgow City Council's development and regeneration spokesman, said: "We also hope the ­neighbouring communities in Easterhouse, will, when the park is completed, be able to enjoy a wonderful new local resource which has the ­potential to have great health benefits offering ­opportunities for walking, ­cycling and other outdoor pursuits."

The final bill for the park is estimated at around £6.5m and it is hoped the first phase will be completed in 2020.

vivienne.nicoll@ eveningtimes.co.uk