So what now for Falkirk’s Gateway site?

Sign for Falkirk Gateway, which five years later, is no further forward
Sign for Falkirk Gateway, which five years later, is no further forward
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Ambitious plans for a retail, housing and leisure hub on the edge of Falkirk appear to have hit the buffers.

Politicians and developers have been in talks to take the Falkirk Gateway project forward for over a decade. But next week council planners will recommend the application is thrown out.

They cite the “lack of progress” and applicant Macdonald Estates’ failure to either complete the legal agreement from 2007 or withdraw the application.

The developer was granted planning permission in March 2007 for a mixed use development, including housing, retail, food and drink and financial services outlets, hotels, car showrooms, leisure facilities, and formation of a canal basin/marina.

It promised to bring 5000 jobs.

However, the recession put plans on hold and despite all parties entering into negotiations, there has been little activity.

Now is seems there are behind-the-scenes moves to clear the way for any future development on the site, which has become an even more lucrative proposition following the opening of the Helix Park.

In fact, what is now the popular greenspace was initially earmarked to be part of the Gateway development and the provision of the canal basin has already taken place, complete with the two iconic Kelpie sculptures.

When Dan Macdonald, chief executive of Edinburgh-based Macdonald Estates plc, unveiled the £500 million plans in 2005, he described the area as “the best connected site in Scotland”.

He said: “It is within half an hour of two major European cities, just 20 minutes drive from a major UK International airport, with excellent motorway and train links and a sea terminal on its doorstep.

“The development will attract office tenants who cannot now find the appropriate accommodation in Edinburgh or Glasgow but expect the international transit links and working environment associated with major hubs.

“It will also become the catalyst for the development of hotel, conference, leisure and other facilities required alongside a quality business park environment.”

When planning permission was granted seven years ago it was subject to several conditions, including:

* £800,000 towards public transport provision

* £300,000 for the provision of off-site cycleways

* a 20 per cent contribution for the upgrading of junction six of the M9 motorway

* £100,000 towards the Helix project.

The cycleways, Helix and motorway junction upgrading have been delivered, the latter as part of the TIF (Tax Incremental Funding) initiative improving the district’s infrastructure.

Falkirk Council’s structure plan continues to highlight the Middlefield/Westfield area as the site for a new retail park with the Gateway as a strategic development opportunity.

The proposal is due to be heard by members of the planning committee next Wednesday.

Councillors will be told: “In early to mid 2010 the applicant approached Falkirk Council with amended development porposals. Discussions took place but no firm revisions to the proposed development were submitted.

“In March and April 2014, given that no further contact had been made, it was requested that the applicant withdraw the application. No response to these requests was received.”

A spokesperson for Falkirk Council said: “We are unable to comment on individual planning applications prior to them being heard.”

Macdonald Estates failed to respond to enquiries.