The runaway success of the Helix Park and Falkirk’s top tourist attraction The Kelpies may have helped kick start a stalled business project.
Falkirk Gateway was big news back in 2009, a £500 million scheme to transform a 150-acre site near the Middlefield area of Falkirk into a business, shopping and leisure mecca – proposals at the time included offices, retail outlets, a hotel and even a marina next to the Forth and Clyde Canal.
However, the highly anticipated, and much delayed, development was put on the back burner after it failed to attract a big name retailer to the site and the economy took a turn for the worse.
The project may have been shelved, but it was never thrown out and it was an upbeat Falkirk Council leader-to-be Craig Martin, then the convener of the economic development committee, who confirmed the council’s long-term commitment to the Gateway proposals back in April 2009.
At the time he said: “We fully acknowledge the difficult circumstances that many regeneration projects across the UK are experiencing at the moment. However, we do remain positive about the potential for investment in Falkirk.
“The council and its partners remain committed to securing progress on a viable and successful development at Falkirk Gateway.”
This optimism seems to have been well founded because the last six years have seen the creation of the Helix, the Kelpies and an upturn in the economy which means the time is right for Falkirk Gateway to be looked at as a serious proposition once more.
This week a council spokesman said: “The original plan for the Falkirk Gateway requires to be revisited since the last time it was marketed as a potential area for growth in the Falkirk area back in 2009.
“The economic landscape has changed significantly since then and we are now looking at three significant positive changes since the original plans – the first being the development and success of the Helix project in bringing visitors to the Falkirk area and their economic potential.
“Secondly the success of Falkirk Council in securing Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) funding that could see thousands of jobs created locally and massive economic investment opportunities across the area and lastly the redevelopment of a new Forth Valley College site beside the Gateway location.
“Review of the master plan is currently under way with key stakeholders and landowners, but our ultimate goal is to maximise every economic opportunity for the local area.
“This involves looking at the current and potential land use in the Gateway zone which may be different to its original anticipated role. We would expect to have a full in-depth report later this year that will outline all future options for the Gateway site.
“Until then it is very difficult to speculate what the final outcome will be, but we can say that all of the new opportunities in the area are helping to build a better and more diverse local economy and that is to be welcomed.”
Once the report has been looked at the public will be consulted on its findings before any further plans are made.