Column: Falkirk town centre plan has to be delivered

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Just back from holiday to read the Falkirk HQ saga is back in the headlines.

I also noted the result of the poll that revealed 70 per cent are against the spend and wonder why they are happy to see more and more of their tax dollars wasted keeping the Municipal Buildings wind and water tight.

If I were the owner of a company and my finance director told me I was spending millions a year more maintaining my main office than I should be because it was clapped out, I would want a solution and wouldn’t have waited until the shop steward representing the hundreds of employees working in the place strolled into my office to say that by all the recognised standards the building is not fit for purpose to implement it.

Falkirk Council found itself in that position years ago.

Skyhigh overheads have plagued the owners of the property built in West Bridge Street in the 1960s for decades.

It looked at various options before finally promoting a ‘spend now to save later’ plan which involved a new build next door and moving the town hall to the new Falkirk College campus at Middlefield. The entire project was to be partly funded by selling the Municipal Buildings site for development and moving staff out of various rented premises across the district and bringing them all under the one roof.

This was debated at full council level and the public were invited to have their say before it was rejected, which I thought was a shame but, there you go, democracy in action.

Local government elections saw a new administration take charge, but to be fair, the issue has remained fairly near the top of the agenda. More reports were called for, including costing a complete refurb of the existing premises, which was also binned, and now we have the latest plan to relocate its main office, arts and civic centre into the centre of Falkirk.

As you would expect this has meant a working group being set up, a working group that will involve councillors, some of whom have agreed to disagree on various options put before them before, so I wonder if things will now move forward at any great pace.

Perhaps the fact businesses in the town have pulled together and put an argument forward that this is now a bigger deal than just finding new digs for councillors might light a fire and get things going.

Clearly the falling footfall on the High Street is a major cause for concern, and if there is a chance both issues can be tackled at the same time, then I say go for it.

Margaret Foy, the Howgate Shopping Centre’s marketing manager and chairwoman of the Healthy High Street group who was allowed to make a statement to the executive was spot on when she asked them: “Leave politics at the door and work together for the sake of the town. When your time in the council is up, you can walk away knowing you left this town fit for generations to come.”

This is a sentiment I entirely agree with and hope wins cross party support, much sooner than later.