Retailers and business leaders are calling on councillors to make a commitment to Falkirk town centre in a bid to safeguard its future.
They are urging Falkirk Council to resolve to build its long-awaited headquarters, along with an arts centre, in the heart of the town.
They believe this would be one step towards helping to revitalise the High Street’s flagging fortunes.
The call comes as a new report reveals that Falkirk has suffered more retail job losses than any other local authority in Scotland.
New analysis from the Scottish Retail Consortium shows that in the seven years from 2008 to 2015 there has been a 27.27 per cent drop in the number of people working in the retail sector with the figure now standing at 5600.
The district’s retail turnover has also dropped by 20.65 per cent and it is the third worst performer, behind South Ayrshire and Inverclyde.
But those working in the town believe while the traditional retail sector across the country is facing huge pressures from online shoppers and out of town shopping centres, by building the new municipal building in the heart of Falkirk it would help bring an innovative solution to a growing problem.
And with the closure of Marks & Spencer just over a fortnight away, it would give out a message that the council is determined to fight back and breathe new life into the town.
One of those who believes the council needs to act and act now is Alex Fleming, BID manager at Falkirk Delivers, who this week said: “Our town centre’s role is first and foremost to serve those who shop, work, visit and do business in the town.
“For Falkirk to thrive we need to increase employment, increase the residential population, manage the retail offer and maximise the tourism opportunity. To restore confidence and act as a catalyst for further investment we believe the future of the town centre lies with a swift decision coming forward from Falkirk Council on the siting of a new HQ and arts centre.
“If we are to retain the integrity of Falkirk town centre, the time is right for that decision to be aspirational and to meet the expectations of the businesses, shoppers and visitors of the town. A prompt decision on a town centre location will stimulate further growth and development for the town and deliver wider social benefit.”
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Healthy High Street group, Margaret Foy of the Howgate shopping centre, said: ‘The Healthy High Street group firmly believe that considerable investment and regeneration is required to secure the future of Falkirk town centre and believe the stars are finally aligning for the town to reinvent its core offer.
“Falkirk Council has the power to influence the pace of change by committing to relocating the town hall arts centre and council chambers to the traditional town centre and move this forward as a matter of urgency.
“If the council abide with its ‘town centre first’ principle, this could unlock additional investment for housing, offices and
student accommodation that would drive much needed footfall and spend to ensure the success of local businesses and generate job opportunities and a vibrant centre for future generations.”
Brian Flynn, owner of Behind the Wall and chairman of Falkirk BID, said: “In my view it is time for those who wield the power to make the right decision for our town and ignore the influence of potential out of town development and the short term financial gain that may go with it. The town centre is our beating heart and without its vibrancy and economic health and wellbeing the whole district will be a much poorer place to live in and to visit.
“I would urge our decision-makers to please, grasp this historic and momentous opportunity be bold and put Falkirk back on the map for all the right reasons.”