East end or dead end of Falkirk?

A view from the old Tesco car park
A view from the old Tesco car park

Sopkeepers fear part of the town is dying on its feet as another closure was announced.

One year on from Tesco pulling down the shutters on its store in Falkirk’s east end comes the news that ironmonger Crockets is quitting Callendar Riggs.

Calls for the run-down bus station to be refurbished – and soon – have been identified as a solution to pumping much-needed lifeblood into the area.

But this week operator First Bus said there were no “imminent” plans to do up the stance.

Now traders have been encouraged to work together to help revitalise the area.

Falkirk’s First Citizen, Provost Pat Reid, said the east end has not been forgotten and believes the economic downturn is the main culprit when it comes to businesses being forced to close.

He said: “This is a long-term issue and I do think Tesco leaving was a huge factor – that car park might be good for some people but it’s not generating revenue for the town and not helping the businesses.

“It’s just a sign of the times – we have this rather acute depression that we have never seen the like of.

“The east end has been high up on our agenda in recent years.”

Crockets has been a fixture in the town for 15 years although the premises themselves have been providing hardware goods to customers since the 1930s under another name.

Now the owners have taken the tough decision to shut the shop for good in mid October – resulting in the loss of two full-time and three part-time jobs.

There are now concerns the business will only be the first of many retail casualties if something is not done to reinvigorate the east end.

Manager Eileen Brodie said: “The rot set in when Tesco shut down – after that we just weren’t getting the same footfall.

“If we can just keep our heads above water we may survive, but right now it’s about 80 per cent certain we’ll be shutting – it’s not looking good at the moment.

“I think the east end of Falkirk has been ignored for the last two or three years – if there is anything going on in the town like farmers’ markets it happens up at The Steeple or the Howgate. We did have an event with bands playing on the bandstand last year, but there hasn’t been anything since.”

The state of the town’s main bus station is also a major cause for concern for shopkeepers, who admit their business takings would probably improve if the depot underwent a full revamp.

David Livingston, area manager for Walmsley Furnishings in Callander Riggs, said: “It is a major bus terminal and if money was invested in refurbishing it that would help us greatly.”

Another shopkeeper, who did not want to be named, said: “We keep hearing bits and pieces about the bus station and about Tesco, but it’s all been rumour.

“Everything was supposedly going to be flattened and new businesses were going to come in with a new bus station as well. The station doesn’t even have a toilet for passengers - we get them coming in complaining about it all the time.

“It’s like we’ve been totally forgotten in this end of the town.”

First Bus stated this week that there were no imminent plans to refurbish the bus station.

Meanwhile, a Tesco spokesman said: “Our estates team are actively marketing the site to see if they can get a new buyer, but there is no news of anyone coming forward yet.”

As far back as 2002 there were plans to regenerate the so called “quiet part of town” with town centre manager Alastair Mitchell keen to see the pedestrianised Callendar Riggs used more effectively - at the time stating it was a “very attractive waste of space with huge potential”.

This week Mr Mitchell, now Falkirk’s Business Improvement District manager, said: “I found out about Crockets on Tuesday and I’m bitterly disappointed for them - they have been in the town for years.

“But I would say the east end of Falkirk has never been forgotten at all and it’s packed with a wide variety of fantastic businesses and a large car parking area.

“It’s disappointing that Tesco left, but hopefully someone will take on the premises and provide a boost for the east end.

“As far as our farmers’ markets are concerned they have been located where they have been located for years and that’s not going to change.

“Plans are now afoot to put events on in the east end of Falkirk and I have just met with management at Callendar Square to talk about a big Christmas event.

“I’ve been suggesting for a good number of years if the businesses in the east end want to band together and form their own group to help promote and market the east end I would support it 100 per cent.”

Falkirk BID confirmed this week the east end of Falkirk will be the starting off point for a massive Charities Day event on Saturday, August 20, and other initiatives would be forthcoming.