Siting of new Falkirk civic centre will be crucial

Marks & Spencer is the latest retailer to leave the High Street, closing on August 11
Marks & Spencer is the latest retailer to leave the High Street, closing on August 11

The saga of a much-needed replacement municipal buildings for Falkirk Council stretches back years.

At various stages it appeared that the project – last valued at £23 million – had the green light.

But in 2016 the plug was pulled on the proposal to build the replacement on the land neighbouring the current building and formerly occupied by Westbank Clinic.

After years of debate and over £500,000 of public money spent on consultant fees, it was announced no decision would be made until after the 2017 local government elections.

Proposals from the current SNP minority administration are due to be brought back to the executive committee on August 14.

However, there is a growing call for the council to site its new civic centre in the heart of the town and giving a commitment to Falkirk’s regeneration.

Councillor David Alexander said the all party working group set up to examine the regeneration potential across the town centre and work to attract investment was “trying to piece the jigsaw together”.

He added: “What we are looking at is a civic centre at the east end of the High Street. As well as housing a number of our staff, it would also provide a council chamber and conference facilities.

“We have been encouraged by the reaction of traders and the town centre management team, as well as the people from the Howgate centre, who have all been very supportive.

“We have also had talks with the college about turning some of the property above town centre shops into student accommodation and again they are supportive.

“However, this is all takes money and that is something we are exploring.”

Councillor Dennis Goldie, leader of the Labour group, said his party was committed to supporting the town centre regeneration.

He said: “We need the new HQ to be in the heart of the town. We need to look at everything, including the M&S site when it becomes available. It is a huge site and we could probably house all the staff in our current building there.

“We as a council have to make that total commitment to the town centre and be open about what we intend to do.”