Timely inclusion of clock could help secure lottery cash for park plan

Grangemouth Town Clock in yestryear
Grangemouth Town Clock in yestryear

An ambitious bid to develop a neglected public park may now have an ace up its sleeve thanks to a historic clock currently languishing in storage.

Falkirk Council, working with Friends of Zetland Park, is preparing to submit a proposal to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to secure money to allow the £2 million refurbishment of Zetland Park to go ahead.

Jessica Paterson, Falkirk Council estates development officer, gave a presentation on the plans to Grangemouth Rotary Club recently since the club has agreed to commit to significant fundraising for the project and hopes to help coin in a grand total of £25,000 for the cause.

A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “Having previously been aiming for a February 2017 submission, we have consulted with the Friends of Zetland Park and decided instead to submit on September 1, 2017.

“Grangemouth Rotary, Friends of Zetland Park, and the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative (IFLI) have been integral in helping us make the decision to delay our bid until September 2017 and we believe the bid will be the stronger for it.

“Two factors led us to this decision – firstly, a major funding opportunity has arisen with the Rotary Club of Grangemouth committing to help fundraising and, secondly, the restoration of the Grangemouth Old Town Clock has been suggested for inclusion in the bid.

“This is an exciting opportunity to strengthen the bid with its clear community support and build heritage merit. We have secured generous funding for the early phase of the clock project.

“IFLI will lead volunteers in surveying and measuring the dismantled structure of the clock. This work will be done outside, in the park, and needs warmer weather in order to maximise volunteer numbers.

“In addition, IFLI staff and contractors are only able to carry out the work in May 2017.”

Councillor Robert Spears is concerned about the future of the historic clock, which Falkirk Council currently has in storage, and, while he wants to see it restored to its former glory, he feels Zetland Park is not the ideal location.

He said: “My ideal situation would see the clock placed in Grangemouth Town Centre beside a working railway station. I don’t think the foundations will be solid enough in the park, which is prone to flooding.”

The project’s bid to the HLF was unsuccessful earlier in the year. In the feedback HLF stated the project did qualify for support, but “demand for our funds means we cannot support every good application that achieves the outcomes of this programme”.

This rejection has led project leaders to strengthen the design proposals for the built structures, strengthen community engagement and strengthen the partnership funding for the next application.

The council did enjoy funding application success for Zetland Park recently when it was awarded £1500 from the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund for a repairs and restoration study of the war memorial to take place.

It is hoped this successful streak will continue next September when it submits its Zetland Park bid to HLF.

The expected cost of the project is over £2 million and, since HLF do not give 100 per cent grants for projects over £1 million, the developers need to come up with at least ten per cent of the development phase costs and ten per cent of the delivery phase costs.

However, it is hoped the park renovation will pay off in the long term since Zetland Park, due to its aging infrastructure, has exacted a heavy maintenance burden on the council, costing a total of £410,500 over the last three years for various works to be carried out, including creation of new footbridges, repairs and upgrades to existing footpaths, pond clean up and a drainage survey.

As well as displaying the masterplan created by TGP Landscape Architects locally there has been formal consultation on the proposals with a number of organisations, including Falkirk Community Trust, The Friends of Zetland Park, Children’s Day Organising Committee, Zetland Bowling Club, Grangemouth Boxing Club, local football club co-ordinators, Grangemouth Heritage Trust, Falkirk Local History Society and local primary and secondary schools.

The public consultation identified priorities like refurbishing the toilets and the park kiosk, restoring the fountain to working order, improving the car park and finding some kind of solution to the paddling pool problem.

The bid which the council will submit in September lays down plans to restore, conserve and illuminate the war emorial, refurbish the fountain and return it to working order with illumination, erect a Heritage Interpretation Wall to tell the story of Grangemouth and its industry, create a naturalised pond to replace the former paddling pool, redesign the existing play park so it includes heritage-themed play equipment, construct an all-action skate area and, of course, restore the Old Town Clock to its former glory.

If everything goes according to plan construction of the new look park will take place between April and December in 2019.

It is hoped the new park will reduced environmental impacts, allow more people to engage with heritage, provide a boost to the local economy and improve the look of the local area and make it a better place to live and visit.