They have been the home of local government for nearly half a century. But now all that Falkirk Council’s Municipal Buildings can look forward to is a date with the demolition men.
Some 48 years and six months after being formaly opened by the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Rt. Hon. William Ross MP, the council’s headquarters at West Bridge Street is now, officially, unfit for purpose.
The site, however, will not be lost to the generations who have always known it as the home of the ‘Town Hall’ and will remain as a central and accessible location for the public.
A bold plan to build new offices in front of the existing buildings and develop the Westbank Clinic next door, which is about to be vacated by NHS Forth Valley, has been agreed unanimously by Falkirk Council’s Executive.
The proposed £21 million spend will pay for the new headquarters and also fund the building of a new civic centre to replace the town hall at a later date.
A working group of councillors and officers will now work with development experts to check the anticipated costs and prepare a detailed business case for the full council to consider.
A nine-page report from director of development services Rhona Geisler explained the options but made it clear “Hame” is best not only for its 32 councillors but also the army of staff currently based there and at Abbotsford House and Callander Square.
A state-of-the art, high quality building which will “reflect the council’s aspirations for its area” is planned.
She outlined the financial implications of doing nothing compared with the potential savings which could be realised by acting now.
In her report to a special meeting of the Executive on Tuesday she said: “The capital cost for a full refurbishment of the building would be £20.6 million and average annual running costs over £1 million. The estimated cost of pursuing a replacement headquarters on a staged basis is £9.8 million for the offices and £11.1 million for the civic or town hall replacement within whole life costs of £43.1 million and average annual running costs of £790,000.
“By way of comparison, the respective figures for a ‘do minimum’ approach, remaining in the Municipal Buildings and responding to building failures as they arise, are £10.6 million for essential repairs over five years within a whole life cost of £54 million and average annual running costs of £1.5 million.
“The site to the front of the existing Municipal Buildings complex, potentially including the Westbank property, appears a viable and attractive option for the development of a new office building. It is centrally located within the town centre, is accessible and has a prominent main road frontage. The work undertaken to date on the options suggests the development of this facility at the existings Municipal Buildings site offers advantages to the council in respect of its central location, accessibility and benefits for the adjacent town centre.
“In addition it is likely the costs of providing the necessary ICT infrastructure to a new building at a location some distance from the existing complex are likely to be significantly in excess of these costs required for relocation within the current site.”