Old Barr’s factory will host ‘vibrant’ Falkirk canals centre

The Falkirk Wheel - the area's most conspicuous reminder that its Forth and Clyde Canal heritage is crucial.
The Falkirk Wheel - the area's most conspicuous reminder that its Forth and Clyde Canal heritage is crucial.

Falkirk Council has approved a plan by Scottish Canals to convert part of the town’s old Barr’s factory to a training centre and community resource.

To be called the Lock 16 Canalside Community Hub the Barr’s building will be transformed into a new local base for Scottish Canals and its partner organisations.

According to architects for the project the site will be opened up to the local community and visitors through new amenities, while also providing employment opportunities.

The scheme is also expected to deliver community benefits for the local communities in nearby Tamfourhill and Camelon.

The architects say Falkirk “now has the opportunity to reimagine itself as a cultural and tourist hub, capitalising upon its built and natural heritage”.

It highlights the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel as world class attractions that have opened up important new tourism development possibilities for the area.

However news of the plan comes amid continuing concern by pressure group Keep Canals Alive! that the system risks falling into decay unless more is spent on remedial work to keep the Forth and Clyde and Union canals open to boat traffic.

Scottish Canals last year produced a strategy document designed to show the difficulty of juggling a finite budget to manage a nationwide system (which includes, for example the high profile Caledonian Canal) based on infrastructure that is typically a century old.

However it has also been noted that the Kelpies and the Helix remain massively popular with local people and visitors, regardless of boat traffic.

Meanwhile extra Scottish Government cash has allowed Scottish Canals to tackle a number of key repairs.

Further details of how the new centre will operate will be available early next week, but the main aim is to create “a vibrant canal-based skills and training centre.”

An existing service yard at the front of the factory building will be upgraded to provide landscaped car parking, while a new pedestrian entrance will be created.

At the same time the currently overgrown rear of the site will be cleared and converted into a secure service yard to serve the Scottish Canals workshop.

A spokesperson said: “This is an ambitious project that will breathe new life into a strategic canal side location, providing vital new community facilities and employment opportunities.

“The hub, once operational, will allow a collaboration between Scottish Canals, Scottish Waterways Trust and local canal based social enterprise and become an asset for the community, creating new jobs and wider economic and social benefit”.