Campaigners face a massive fight to save the headquarters of Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary from demolition.
Hopes of persuading NHS Forth Valley to lift the threat facing the 80-year-old building by agreeing it would be protected from any redevelopment scheme were dashed this week.
In a bombshell statement Ian Mullen, chairman of NHS Forth Valley, said the iconic two storey block that carries the town’s name cannot be retained as an empty building because it would cost too much.
He said: “I understand and am sympathetic to the concerns that have been raised. Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary was built as a result of the largest community fundraising effort in Scotland at the time and that is extremely important.
“Nevertheless, the oldest buildings are no longer appropriate for the provision of care and that is why we have created Forth Valley Royal Hospital and converted the remaining usable buildings on the old Falkirk Royal site into Falkirk Community Hospital.
“I believe that the building at the corner of Major’s Loan and Westburn Avenue has character, but Historic Scotland has clearly decided that it is neither important enough or old enough to be protected by being classified as a listed building. We have taken steps to ensure that some of the external and internal features of the former Falkirk Royal will be retained, but there is little we can do to save this building.
“If NHS Forth Valley was to retain a building that cannot be used for the provision of care we would be faced with the risk of vandalism, deterioration and destruction. There would be significant cost for security and maintenance that we are simply unable to fund.”
Now the fight is likely to switch back to putting pressure on Historic Scotland to re-think its decision not to award it ‘Listed’ status after announcing last week that compared with other hospital buildings from the same period elsewhere in Scotland it is not of “sufficient architectural significance” to meet the strict criteria needed to be listed.
Provost Pat Reid, Falkirk councillors, the town’s MP and MSP and Falkirk Local History Society have all been stunned by the news the Scottish Government’s official protectors of the nation’s heritage do not rate the landmark highly enough to protect it from the bulldozers.
Provost Reid has warned there will be a public outcry if either NHS Forth Valley or Historic Scotland do not change their stance. He said: “Given the significance of these buildings to generations of people in Falkirk district this situation will be met with great diappointment and disbelief.”
Councillor Craig Martin, leader of Falkirk Council said: “It is absolutely right these buildings should remain. I will be writing to both these organisations encouraging them to reconsidcer their position. One of them has to be persuaded to make a U-turn.”
Falkirk MP Eric Joyce said: “I’m completely behind the idea the main building of the infirmary should be protected and will be expressing my concerns to Mr Mullen and his board.”
SNP Councillors have called for public consultation. Group leader David Alexander insisted: “The people of Falkirk district backed NHS Forth Valley’s relocation to Larbert so now it is incumbent on the Health Board to listen to them and act according to their wishes. The hospital building may not be listed but is nevertheless an important part of our history and heritage and in our opinion its demolition would be a major loss to the town.”
Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson said: “Given its importance I will be contacting Historic Scotland asking them to reconsider their decision and if there are any further measures that could be taken to recognise the significance of this building to the local community.”