Falkirk Stadium approved ... now work begins

Unanimous backing for Westfield plan

COUNCILLORS have rubber-stamped Falkirk Football Club's plans to build a Field of Dreams at Westfield.

The last full meeting of Falkirk Council before the elections agreed unanimously to back the community stadium project.

A special ceremony to mark the signing of the joint venture package between the council and the club will be held at Westfield on Sunday when two Junior Bairns will be invited to formally cut the first sod on the site.

Over 8 million will be spent creating a new home for the Bairns which will eventually hold 10,000 fans and boast a leisure and sports complex that will include five-a-side football pitches, a health and fitness centre, sports bar and conference and hospitality facilities.

A 4 million technical centre of excellence backed by petro-chemical giants BP and Avecia which will train apprentices for careers in the industry is also planned.

The new ground will be known as The Falkirk Stadium and be run by a joint venture company (JVC), Falkirk Community Stadium Limited.

Falkirk Council will lease the site at Westfield to the JVC for 175 years. In turn, the JVC will lease the football club the facilities it will need. Rent charges have still to be agreed by the council and the club.

Winners

Work on The Falkirk Stadium is expected to start before the end of the month and be finished in time for the start of the 2004-05 football season.

Councillor David Alexander said the package meant the community and the football club had both come out winners. The leader of the administration predicted a "feel good" factor would sweep through the district and boost civic pride.

"The first and most obvious benefit is the 350 jobs that will be created when Morrisons open at Brockville.

''Then we have a new home for Falkirk Football Club and, of course, we have a Scottish first with the news about the technician training centre of excellence, which will bring another 100 jobs.

''The cherry on the pie is the approval of the Scottish Executive who have identified the validity and robustness of our business plan by agreeing a 2 million loan.

"Our vision of creating not just a football stadium but a community facility is coming together. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating and this is going to be a very rich pudding."

Opposition councillors seemed satisfied with the package. Labour leader John Connolly said: "Our prime concern has always been to protect our council taxpayers.

''It's difficult to be too critical of the report, however it is a very finely balanced financial structure. It's obviously vital the private sector makes a contribution and on that basis the involvement of the petro-chemical industry is excellent news. The final product is one, I'm sure, we will all be proud of at the end of the day."