Bridge plan raises the stake for canal

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Planning officials fear a massive canal development’s lifting bridge could cause traffic chaos.

The Helix Trust’s plans to put in place two 30 metre high “Kelpie” - horse’s head - sculptures, extend the Forth and Clyde Canal and create a new sea lock on the River Carron north east of Glensburgh in Grangemouth were looked at by Falkirk Council’s planning committee during a site visit on Monday afternoon.

While residents expressed concerns over the potential for flooding and rise in noise levels such a major development would bring, committee members including convener Billy Buchanan and Councillor Malcolm Nicol, questioned the viability of placing a “lift” bridge on the Glensburgh Road to make it easier for boats and barges to travel underneath.

Councillor Buchanan was informed it would take no more than five minutes for the bridge to go up and back down, but Councillor Nicol said the bridge was bound to cause major disruption to traffic on such a busy road.

The proposed development is located between Etna Road roundabout on the A9 northern distributor road and West Mains industrial area, continuing to the north of the residential area of Devon Street, Glensburgh, and seeks to improve navigation of the Forth and Clyde Canal.

The canal extension will also see the creation of a new culvert which will take the canal and its towpath under the M9 and into a specially-constructed turning pool near canal lock two where the Kelpies will be positioned.

This new Kelpie lock will link directly into the existing Carron mooring basin and both Kelpies will face in a south-easterly direction - showing them off to their best advantage and also making them easier to access on foot.

Representing the developers, Richard Miller, of British Waterways, said: “The development will deliver water and boating opportunities and walking opportunities. It will encourage people to come through the Forth and Clyde Canal.

“There is an economic value to it and it also brings the canal back to its 1798 birthplace in Grangemouth. The Kelpies will hopefully be a similar attraction to The Falkirk Wheel that people will want to come and visit - something that is unique which they can be proud of.

“It will go from an uncontrolled watercourse to a controlled watercourse.”

Speaking in favour of the development, Ronnie Rusack, boating enthusiast and chairman of the Seagull Trust, said he welcomed any move which improved the canal.

He said: “This stretch of water is scary - it’s a dangerous piece of water. People won’t come up here to use the Forth and Clyde Canal because they are frightened - they know they only have around a 20 minute window to get under the bridge here.”

The planning committee is scheduled to decide at a meeting on November 2.