The Strategic Property Review (SPR) has been controversial as the council seeks to get rid of older buildings that are expensive to run and maintain and concentrate on fewer properties that are multi-purpose and energy efficient.
The council has so far had a consultation, focus groups and workshops for councillors to look at the issues and a report to Falkirk Council’s emergency executive today (Thursday) will set out clearer proposals to take to communities.
Plans for a new arts centre/town hall and HQ are still on the cards although inevitably delayed by Covid-19.
It looks likely that the number of council offices will be reduced from 11 to five with buildings, including Abbotsford House in Bainsford and Sealock House in Grangemouth, reaching the end of their working lives.
The aim of the SPR is also to work in partnership with other organisations and volunteers.
Many of the community facilities that have proved so vital during the Covid period will be transferred to community management.
The report also says that the future will involve making better use of schools for community and leisure facilities.
They also want to make better use of libraries which tend to have town centre locations.
Falkirk district will be divided into three ‘locality hubs’ – Falkirk East, which includes Grangemouth and Bo’ness; Falkirk Central which includes Bainsford and Westquarter; and Falkirk West, which includes Stenhousemuir, Denny and Bonnybridge.
The report stresses that input from communities is vital to look at each area’s priorities and feedback would be welcome from groups such as parent councils, teachers, young people, carers, community and voluntary groups.
Following last year’s online consultation – which was heavily criticised when it was released – there were 1743 responses and 63 per cent of them said they would not be prepared to travel further to use improved leisure facilities.
The same figure said they would not be prepared to travel further to attend their local community group if it was based in a building with better facilites.
And 52 per cent agreed that the closeness of council and community trust facilities is more important than the quality of the services they provide.
However, those responding did agree that it was wise for the council and Community Trust to look at how they can share buildings and resources more effectively.
There was also strong support for investing in buildings that can be used for the biggest variety of activities with 70 per cent agreeing this was important.
It was also generally agreed that communities should be given the opportunity to run and manage council or community trust buildings that are facing closure.
There was strong support for the council retaining Bo’ness and Grangemouth Town Halls and people in the Bo’ness focus group also felt that libraries were an important resource.