Why Callendar Square sale could be postive move for Falkirk’s east end

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Moves are now afoot to ensure the sale of the troubled Callendar Square Shopping Centre helps regenerate the often forgotten east end of Falkirk town centre.

The addition of B&M and KFC have been positive steps towards that goal in the last few years, and now the reported purchase of the 135,712 square foot, three-storey complex by a London-based property firm has provided another potential opportunity to move towards a brighter future.

While the new buyer, believed to be Cygnet Properties and Leisure PLC – operated by members of the Virani family among others – would not give any details about the reported £1 million purchase, they have agreed to meet with Falkirk Council to discuss the future of the property.

Douglas Duff, the council’s head of economic development, confirmed officers were looking to meet with the new owners in the next couple of weeks to find out what their plans were.

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: “We are hoping to speak to the buyer and see what their plans are for the property. If they want to talk about retaining Callendar Square as a retail unit we will work with them to help that happen.

“If they want to turn the premises into a civic centre then we would obviously be interested in talking to them about that as well.”

Councillor Meiklejohn added the council is not looking at Callendar Square as a potential replacement municipal buildings because the premises are not large enough to use as a headquarters.

But she added: “Anything that effects the east end of the town centre is something we have to be interested in – Callendar Square is a major part of the regeneration concept. It has gone through a troubled time as shopping centre.”

Callendar Square has gone through difficult times since it was built by Central Regional Council back in the late 1980s.

Designed to replace the Callender Centre built in the 1960s and demolished nearly 20 years later, work on the new-build started in 1989 but had to be halted when contractors Rush and Tompkins went into receivership.

For over two years the half-built centre was an eyesore before a rescue package was put together. The then Central Regional Council underwrote the deal to the tune of £13 million and the centre eventually opened in November 1993, by which time building costs had reached £22 million.

It was bought from the Falkirk Council by Guernsey-registered Callendar Property Holdings Limited in 2005 and was subsequently taken over and run Propinvest before it was sold to Ellandi, the firm which currently owns Falkirk’s Howgate Centre, in 2015.

The centre suffered two heavy blows in succession when retailers TK Maxx announced in 2014 they were leaving Callendar Square for the Central Retail Park.

Then in 2016 BHS closed its doors for good – one of the 30 branches of the stricken high street brand forced to shut down throughout the UK at that time.

The Falkirk Herald contacted Glasgow-based Vine Property Management this week to get confirmation on the sale and on actually who purchased the shopping centre, but was told there would no comment on the matter at this time.