A meeting organised by Grangemouth Community Council at Grangemouth High School on Tuesday night gave Ineos – and Falkirk Council – the chance to share their vision of the town’s future with the people who live there.
However, those present felt much of Ineos business development manager Ian Little’s presentation was geared towards how Ineos and the chemical sector would profit from its future plans, with little said about how the town and its residents would benefit.
There was also a sense among some members of the audience that Ineos, in pushing forward with its own agenda, was forgetting about the people who call the town home.
Grangemouth community council vice convener Walter Inglis said Grangemouth was often viewed as an industrial town that happens to have people living in it.
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He added: “I think we are actually a community that hosts industry – so we need be seen as strategic partners in this process moving forward.”
During his presentation Mr Little stated the area had to become more “attractive” if it was going to entice chemical firms to set up shop in the town.
This included site clearance at the plant, taking much of the redundant space and clearing it away to make it ready for new projects.
The presentation mentioned “impediments” to progress and some people took that to mean the proposed closure of a section of Bo’ness Road, which Ineos has been pursuing for some time. The final decision on the closure now rests with Scottish ministers.
Referring to the strike and subsequent shutdown at the Ineos site back in 2013, Mr Little said: “We must not take for granted the plant and the jobs that are here in the area will always be here.
“If the environment isn’t right for manufacturing then companies will leave.”
During Tuesday’s meeting Douglas Duff, Falkirk Council’s head of economic development stated 7000 jobs can be created out of future endeavours to make Grangemouth an “innovation district” for chemicals and manufacturing.
His presentation stated attainment levels in Grangemouth were currently lower than average, unemployment was higher for young people, average earnings were lower, travel connections were poor and the population is less healthy than people in other areas.
He said: “There is a real opportunity in this if we work together to achieve it – there can be some real benefits for all of us. There are four million tonnes of carbon emitted annually from Grangemouth and that heat going away is lost.
“Around 40 per cent of houses in the community cannot afford to pay their heating bills, so is there a way to take the heat industry produces and share it with the community?
“Can we get the support to do this and, if it is provided, will it be used?”