Councillors will meet before Christmas to decide where the district’s next generation of talented amateur actors, singers and dancers will entertain us.
Relocating Falkirk Town Hall is a priority following the decision to demolish it and sell the site as part of a bigger project to build a new council headquarters and civic centre in West Bridge Street.
Eight possible locations for a replacement arts and performance venue - including council owned car parks at Meeks Road and Melville Street, sites at Westfield, Kemper Avenue and Callendar Park - and even Callendar Square - have all been considered.
But a ‘ground share’ with Forth Valley College at its new £80 million Middlefield Campus which is due to open in August 2019 is the clear favourite.
When the council debates the options in December it will consider a business case supported by Falkirk Community Trust for a new 420-seat venue within the Falkirk Gateway development zone.
The trust is also pushing for Falkirk Library to be part of the scheme to allow it to tackle issues it is facing in its Hope Street building, including running costs, suitability and maintenance concerns.
A feasibility review that looked at the cost of all the options recommends building at Middlefield in partnership with the college offers the best value for money package.
In August, a report from Rhona Geisler, the council’s director of development services, made the case for a “flagship” cultural venue for the area.
She said: “The option available to the council and Falkirk Community Trust of proceeding with the development of a replacement town hall in partnership with Forth Valley College offers a unique opportunity for the creation of an innovative cultural and learning asset which can assist in stimulating development at the Falkirk Gateway.”
The new town hall will have to:
* be able to seat crowds of between 350 and 420 to enjoy the shows;
* offer fully retractable seating to provide flexibility for different types of events;
* provide multi-purpose rooms for classes, workshops and rehearsal space;
* have a stage capable of accommodating a cast of between 80 and 100 for performances ranging from the traditional Christmas ‘panto’ to concerts.
Moving to Middlefield would cost the council an initial £4 million payment towards construction costs, money which is already part of the proposed £21 million spend on the entire HQ/Town Hall scheme.
It would occupy the arts centre under the terms of the lease signed with Forth Valley College and in turn sub-let the property to Falkirk Community Trust. The council will also be liable for the maintenance and running costs.
In her report the director makes it clear however: “The capital cost for the venue ranges from £5.7 to £7.6 million. For a combined arts and performance venue and library it is between £7.1 and £9 million.
“It should be recognised that at £4 million the capital cost assumed for the Middlefield Campus option represents an estimated contribution figure not the total cost.”