Arts centre and HQ scheme ‘vital’ for town says Falkirk Delivers chairman

An ambitious council HQ and arts centre plan is “absolutely vital” to the town centre’s future. says Falkirk Delivers chairman Brian Flynn.

Sunday, 20th October 2019, 2:22 pm
Behind the Wall owner Brian Flynn.

He has made a renewed appeal for the scheme - rejected by Labour councillors - to be put back on track in the wake of the latest two shock retail closures in the already denuded area around the High Street.

Last month Labour councillors blocked an SNP-led plan to relocate the council headquarters to the heart of the town, while opening an arts centre capable of attracting people to an area reeling from a series of high profile retail departures.

Labour Group Robert Bissett argued there was a long list of spending priorities across the area and that a £45million new dewelopment could not be justified.

The closure of Watt Brothers from the Howgate was closely followed by Bonmarche in High Street going into administration - although it remains open and may yet be saved.

Labour members sparked fury by dubbing the plan “Cecil’s Castle” - alluding to SNP council leader Cecil Meiklejohn, implying the scheme was a mere vanity project.

However this week’s fresh town centre retail woes have prompted both Howgate Shopping Centre general manager Suzanne Arkinson and now Mr Flynn to launch a new appeal urging support for the plan.

The Howgate’s branch of Watts Brothers has folded, with the collapse of the company, and High Street women’s fashion store Bonmarché is in administration - although continuing to trade, pending rescue efforts.

Mr Flynn, owner of award-winning town centre licensed venue Behind the Wall, said: “An arts centre and (council) headquarters are absolutely vital for the future viability of Falkirk town centre.

“It would be fantastic if our local representatives showed faith in their town centre, and everyone else would follow suit.

“I am sure Falkirk would be all the richer for it in the future”.

Last month Behind the Wall was offered as a venue after an SNP councillor challenged Labour to debate whether or not the council should build a new headquarters and arts centre.

Councillor David Alexander offered to take on the Labour group leader, Robert Bissett, after Labour members withdrew support for the plan.

The Labour group has said that the uncertainty caused by Brexit along with continuing austerity meant they could no longer support plans that concentrated resources on just one part of the district.

However the latest closures are seen by the scheme’s supporters as having given fresh impetus to the idea.

Suzanne Arkinson said if the council would not invest in the town centre, neither would anybody else.