You just have to see some of the Facebook reactions to news of Falkirk High Street being shortlisted for an award to realise all is not well.
Some people stated their disbelief, while others openly mocked the fact the high street had been shortlisted in the “Rising Star” category of this year’s Great British High Street Awards.
However, more than a few welcomed the news, believing the award nomination to be more about what the town’s high street can become in the future and not what it is at present.
The Rising Star category celebrates high streets which are taking the lead to adapt and diversify – something Falkirk High Street, and the town centre is in the process of doing.
Falkirk Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: “We have recognised the need to reinvent and revitalise our town centre and look at different types of activities and strategies we can follow to do this.
“The retail process has changed over the decades as shopping habits have changed and in order to get people into the town centre we have to think differently.”
One way of getting more people into the town centre is actually making it possible for them to live there.
Councillor Meiklejohn said: “We have been looking at how we can create more living accommodation within our town centre above retail buildings or by looking at existing buildings and converting them into housing.”
Popular attractions like the Falkirk Wheel, the Helix and the Kelpies have led to more people coming to Falkirk, but unfortunately these tourist and visitor magnets are located some distance away from the town centre.
“We are working to improve our walking, cycling and transport links to take people as close to our town centre as possible from these attractions,” said Councillor Meiklejohn.
Brian Flynn, owner of Behind the Wall and chairman of Falkirk BID board, believes the town centre has to change to survive.
He said: “Every high street up and down the country has its issues and challenges and we can’t take it lying down. We are trying to do things that help – anything you can do to help turn people towards the town centre rather than away from it is a good thing for all businesses.
“Town centres have to change and adapt – the more people living, working and eating in the high street the better.”
While lasting strategies are put in place, the town centre continues to do its best to recover from setbacks like Marks and Spencer closing and get the word out it is open and ready for business.
Margaret Foy, Howgate Shopping Centre marketing manager, said: “It’s still a very friendly and safe place to shop with a lot of fantastic independent shops. There are also a number of high street events which bring people together and our town centre is still very much a part of the community.
“It’s definitely a challenging time – not just in Falkirk – and a lot of partners are working together to change the decline so it’s fit for the next generation to shop in and enjoy.”
Falkirk is one of 28 high streets shortlisted in the Rising Star category.
Falkirk Delivers manager Alex Fleming said: “We told the judging panel about initiatives we have in place to support the town centre through this time of regeneration. The Revitalising Falkirk Town Centre project aims to involve local people in shaping the future of the town through the development of a number of partnerships.
“I would encourage people to re-engage with the town centre and get their votes in online. Our local businesses, the beating heart of Falkirk, appreciate the support.”
Visit www.thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk for more information.