Famous MCCowan’s sweet factory set for redevelopment

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The famous McCowan’s sweetie factory in Stenhousemuir could have a future as the home of a new retail outlet and restaurant.

Falkirk Council planners are considering two applications to redevelop the former site that produced childhood favourites Highland Toffee and Wham bars – but which has been empty for the last five years after the owners Millar McCowan’s went into administration.

Stirling-based property developers Ramoyle Group have earmarked the land at Tryst Road for a 22,000 square foot retail outlet selling household goods and a family friendly restaurant and public house.

Their discussions with Falkirk Council planners are at an advanced stage and consultation with neighbours and the local community council has gone well.

Company director Jim Turnbull: “Our clients are a well-known name interested in coming to Stenhousemuir. They consider their proposal would compliment the new town centre, attract more shoppers to the area and, of course, create jobs.

“Over the last 18 months of this project we have met with the residents association, community council and neighbours to explain the proposal in detail and received very positive feedback. The factory has become a bit of an eyesore over the years and the redevelopment proposed would take care of that.

“We’re hoping the council can give us an early decision. We have a demolition team standing by to move on site as soon as we receive the green light. Our retailer is looking to be ready to open by the autumn.

“The first phase of the project is to build the retail outlet with a detailed planning application for the family-style restaurant public house to follow later.

“We already have a client interested in that part of the redevelopment and talks with them are on-going.”

The applications were received by the council at the end of last month.

The first is seeking planning permission to demolish the existing buildings on the site, build the retail outlet complete with car parking and landscaping and create a new road junction on King Street. The second phase, which is looking for planning permission in principle at this stage, would include its own car park and pedestrian access.

Both will be required to be determined by officers under delegated powers by early May.

Andrew McCowan established his business in Stenhousemuir in the early 1920s. Its best-known product was Highland Toffee, affectionately known as ‘Coo Candy’ because the wrappers featured the Highland cow.

One of its biggest successes was the Wham bar which became a ‘must have’ sweetie in the 1980s. At their peak, sales of the thin, brightly covered strips of toffee with sherbet inside, reached 30 million a year.

The business was sold to Nestle in the 1960s, and the subject of management buyouts in the 1990s and 2003 before being bought by Millars of Broxburn and renamed Millar McCowan.