Shock at £7m bill for Helix Kelpies

PIC MICHAEL GILLEN 31/05/07 FALKIRK WHEEL KELPIE UNVEILING.
PIC MICHAEL GILLEN 31/05/07 FALKIRK WHEEL KELPIE UNVEILING.
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Revelations that a future Falkirk landmark will carry a £7 million price tag has been greeted with shock.

The Kelpies – two 100-foot high horses heads – are planned as part of the ambitious £49m Helix project which is set to transform 300 hectares of unused land.

But this week they were branded as “great lumps of perforated aluminium” by SNP councillor Tom Coleman who expressed outrage at the cost.

Now members of the leisure committee have called for further discussions about the inclusion of the Kelpies in the scheme.

However, officials fear the removal of the Kelpies could jeopardise the £25 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund given to cover the cost of the structures and other parts of the Helix project.

During a presentation on Tuesday, councillors heard the Kelpies had originally been planned to act as a boat lift.

However, since that function had been removed in November, bosses were now looking at developing play opportunities within the sculptures and also considering internal viewing platforms.

But while Mr Coleman was delighted that the project which would bring 750 acres of green space to an urban area, he expressed serious doubts about the Kelpies.

He said: “These great lumps of metal don’t add to what is a tremendous idea.

“Now we hear they are going to be used as some kind of kids’ climbing frame.”

Conservative councillor Malcolm Nicol then discovered that the Kelpies would still cost £7 million.

He said: “£7 million has drawn gasps here and I’m sure it will draw gasps of absolute amazement outside.

“These no longer have a purpose and I think it’s amazing that in this present climate you’re going to spend £7 million.

“It’s not often I agree with Tom Coleman, but he is to be applauded for bringing this up.”

Councillor John McNally, Denny’s SNP representative, called for the removal of the Kelpies from the Helix scheme.

He said: “£7 million is an extraordinary amount of money.”

Maureen Campbell, the council’s director of community services, said: “The project funding will be compromised if the Kelpies are not there. If we are to achieve national recognition, there has to be a unique element and the Kelpies provide that.”

Councillor John McLuckie defended the structures saying: “Everybody knows about the Kelpies. They were originally going to cost £10 million so we should look at the savings that have been made.”

However. the committee agreed that further talks should be held urgently with all partners to determine the Kelpies’ fate.