A new £5 million canal centre on the site of the former Irn-Bru factory is to create jobs and new opportunities linked to Falkirk culture and tourism.
In a partnership between Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals, the former Barr’s plant – moribund since the late 90s – will become a depot, community facility and training centre on a vital stretch of the Forth and Clyde Canal.
As a bonus the historic nearby Union Inn will be transformed into a community cafe.
The cash for the scheme follows a successful bid between Falkirk Council, Scottish Canals and other stakeholders to gain funding from the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant funding.
It will create around 20 jobs while supporting ten existing posts and the same number of training places, but much wider benefits are predicted likely to follow for Camelon, Tamfourhill and the wider area.
Work on the newly-approved scheme should start in spring, and it is expected to be up and running by summer next year.
Scottish Canals chief executive Catherine Topley told The Falkirk Herald: “The site will act as a ‘front door’ to the wider area.
“This is an ambitious project that will breathe new life into a strategic canal side location.
“Our vision for a sustainable, economically active future for this canal side node has been developed in consultation with the local community and project stakeholders.
“The hub, once operational, will allow a collaboration between Scottish Canals, Scottish Waterways Trust and local canal based social enterprise.”
She added: “It will become an asset for the local community, creating new jobs and wider economic and social benefit.”
The project is currently titled the Lock 16 Canalside Community Hub Project, but that won’t be its final name.
There will be a meet-the-community event this summer where, besides outlining what the scheme will mean for the area, the partnership will take on board local ideas about what the centre should be called.
The project will aim to “provide much needed opportunity for the local populace to gain access to skills development, training and employment – especially young people”.
At the same time it will turn the former Barr’s plant into “a vibrant training and skills development hub”.
Meanwhile, the new facilities will allow Scottish Canals to relocate its maintenance and operational base, and offer the Scottish Waterways Trust a base where it can deliver training and development programmes such as Canal College.
The project also spells good news for the Reunion social enterprise, which currently operates out of temporary accommodation.
The social enterprises hosted in the improved Union Inn are reckoned likely to benefit from their location on the short journey between the Helix and the Falkirk Wheel – and also from the planned reopening of the Rosebank Distillery.
Falkirk Council’s economic development spokesman, Councillor David Alexander, said: “This injection of investment to the Lock 16 area will build on our ambition to create a string of opportunities along the canal corridor in terms of tourism development – and, importantly, for local people to access jobs and skills training.
“The council is working in partnership with Scottish Canals to maximise the regeneration investment around Lock 16 by unlocking government funding and investing council funds into the wider public realm to improve open spaces, pedestrian routes and cycle ways.
“The site provides a great location for developing opportunities at the heart of our community and we are pleased to be working with Scottish Canals to realise the potential of the site for local benefit.”