Big Bar: Safety first is message over landmark Bainsford building due to be demolished

Safeguarding a community must be the priority is the message from Falkirk Council as preparations are made to demolish a landmark building.

The Big Bar has stood at the Bainsford Cross for 117 years but any day now it is due to be razed to the ground.

Following a fire in April 2005 which ravaged the red sandstone property its future has been in doubt.

The ground floor had been a popular public house in its day and was later used to sell household furniture, while the two floors above provided several flats which were homes to families and individuals.

However, at the time of the blaze the properties were all empty.

There had been a fire in the building earlier in the day and crews had only left the site an hour before but were called back to deal with another blaze which had started in a top floor flat, quickly spreading to the roof.

Since then the building at the corner of Davids Loan and Main Street has had an uncertain fate.

Several attempts have been made to carry out repairs but the problem has always been tracing and negotiating with the large number of owners involved.

At one time the cost of repairing the roof alone was estimated at £140,000.

But after several incidents when masonry fell from the building to the street below, the local authority has decided that demolition is the only option.

Ian Dryden, Falkirk Council’s development and building standards manager, said: “It’s not a route we wanted to go down but we now need to act quickly.

“It’s regrettable because it is a lovely building but public safety is paramount.

“If the building were left for another winter there could be further problems and now we need to act as quickly as possible.”

In July this year the ten owners of the building were sent letters of intent by the local authority informing them of the demolition plans.

The tender was issued in August with 22 contractors initially interested and it was eventually awarded to Glasgow company JCJ Group.

They expect to have workmen on the site within weeks to begin the painstaking task of demolishing the building.

Charlie Reid, the council’s project manager, said that although there would be disruption for the community and motorists it was hoped to keep this to a minimum over the three months it is expected to take to clear the site.

He and other local authority staff have been working to spread the word about what will be taking place. This has included talking to staff and pupils at both Bainsford and Langlees Primary Schools and holding drop-in sessions in the neighbouring community centre.

Charlie said: “The contractor will be keeping site traffic to a minimum at certain times of the day, particularly around when the schools are going in and out. They will also be doing what they can to keep the dust to a minimum.”

The biggest headache for motorists will be the closure of Davids Loan from Main Street with a detour along Carronside Street and Haugh Street on to Carron Road.

But to ensure that Main Street doesn’t have to be closed, the demolition of the front of the building will all be done by hand.

The site will be completely cleared and a 1.8 metre wooden fence put around it until the owners decide on a future use for the land.

There are plans to reset the 1901 date stone into the gable end of the remaining building.

Work has also been carried out to give disabled access into neighbouring Bainsford Bowling Club from Hendry Street, while the barber whose premises are next door to the Big Bar will have additional signage during the demolition process.

Charlie Reid added: “It’s important that we work with the community to carry out this work.”

The cost of the demolition is around £200,000 and the council made it clear that their lawyers would be sending the bill to the Big Bar owners.

Councillor Laura Murtagh, spokesperson for public protection, said: “This is all about public safety. The community of Bainsford has put up with this for a very long time and we had to plan this carefully so there would be minimal disruption.

“The building is part of our heritage and that is important but it is more important to keep people safe and give them a future space that can hopefully be of benefit to the community.”

However, one owner who is disappointed that the building is not going to be restored is Vernon Hughes, who owns four flats in the building.

Mr Hughes is also unhappy that he heard about the demolition plans after a report in The Falkirk Herald, saying Falkirk Council sent correspondence to the wrong address.

He said: “Over the last three months I have tried repeatedly to get information from the council. I live abroad and even attended the offices, but no one would take time to speak with me or even steer me in the right direction to get further information.”

Mr Hughes added that he and another owner had spent large sums of money over the years in an attempt to get the building repaired. He said: “Finally the people of Bainsford get a safe street to walk in again, something we have been crying out for for years.”

A council spokesman said: “We have worked with all the property owners over the many years we have been involved with the building. We fully acknowledge the efforts of some of the owners to try and salvage parts of the building however there has never been a consensus across all ten owners.”