After 200 years in its offices on the Cow Wynd, Falkirk law firm Russel + Aitken could soon be saying goodbye to its historic premises.
The firm has made what it called an “emotional” decision to leave the ‘rabbit-warren’ of corridors and offices that is no longer fit for the purposes of a modern business – and they could be making a move soon.
Planning permission is being sought by developers VKRR Investments Ltd to convert the Kings Court offices into five flats, while another outbuilding will become a bin store and a garage will be converted into a house with car parking.
It’s a massive change for the partners and staff of Russel + Aitken – and it was not an easy decision to make, said partner Karen McLachlan.
“We looked at ways to change the layout to keep the building modern and fresh, but the cost was prohibitive in a building of that age,” she told The Falkirk Herald.
“It’s very dark and there are lots of nooks and crannies and we were trying to look at ways to make it more open plan but the building just doesn’t lend itself to it.
“The building has served the business well for 200 years but it’s just not fit for purpose any more.
“It was an emotional decision to make after all this time but it’s the right time to do it.”
“We are looking for somewhere that is more accessible, brighter and more open plan, where we can carry on doing what we’re doing!”
And she was quick to offer reassurance that the law firm will be staying in Falkirk.
“It’s a Falkirk business - there has never been any intention of closing down or moving out of the town!” said Ms McLachlan.
As the move is still subject to planning permission being granted, the firm says it has “somewhere in mind” but will not be disclosing any details until things are more settled.
The move was sparked when developers – who recently transformed two old storage rooms belonging to the lawyers into mews-style cottages – approached the firm again.
They were looking for more space to create car parking for the houses and the idea of moving premises began to crystallize.
“We knew they had done a good job on the cottages and we think that this will make sure that the building can continue for years to come with a different use.
“We see this as a very positive move.”
The proposed move is coinciding with Russel + Aitken Falkirk’s decision to no longer operate as an estage agent, although they will still offer conveyancing services.
“It is an increasingly crowded market,” explained Karen. “So when our property manager told us that he was moving to the United States and with this move coming up we thought it was time to rethink.
“It’s not what we do – we’re solicitors, and not being an estate agent means we don’t need a shop frontage.”
Although the move means the loss of another business very close to Falkirk High Street, the fact that it will be replaced by housing is widely seen as a positive step.
For some time now, the rise in online shopping and out-of-town retail parks have hit the high street and town centre hard, with Falkirk losing even big name shops, most recently Marks & Spencer.
Falkirk Council now wants to create a town centre with a more mixed use – including more housing – in a bid to keep it busy and help with its regeneration.
The council recently committed to creating a new council headquarters and civic centre in the town, which will bring 300 members of staff into the town centre.
There are also plans for more student accommodation for the nearby Forth Valley College.
The planning application refers to Russel +Aitken, 9 Cow Wynd, Falkirk and 3A Bean Row, Falkirk.