Decision to scrap new arts centre could impact on Falkirk’s £140m Growth Deal, claim

The decision to scrap a new arts centre for Falkirk town centre could have repercussions for Falkirk’s £140 million Growth Deal, which was signed today (Tuesday).

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 3:47 pm

The deal will see UK and Scottish Governments contribute £90 million towards 11 projects that it is hoped will bring green jobs and better transport to the area.

These include major projects to enhance tourism locally, such as a new canal centre being built in Camelon – including Scottish Canals’ headquarters – and a public art trail that will enhance the walk from the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel.

Read More

Read More
Omicron in Falkirk: Confirmed cases almost double in last five days

Sign up to our daily The Falkirk Herald Today newsletter

Falkirk Council Headquarters and Arts Centre Project - proposed design of one of the options

However, Falkirk Council’s contribution to the deal is the £45 million to build a new HQ and arts centre in Falkirk High Street, in the hope of regenerating the town centre.

As the heads of terms were signed, the project is still described as a crucial part of the Growth Deal, which has taken years of negotiations to put in place.

Just before adding his signature to the document, UK government minister Iain Stewart said: “The creation of an exciting new art centre will not only heighten the cultural offering for the local community, it will also aid tourism.”

However, since plans for the new facility were halted by opposition councillors in September, it is not clear exactly how that £45 million will now be spent.

Artist's impression of one of the plans for the proposed arts centre and council HQ

In September, the Labour group – backed by the Conservatives – announced they wanted to build new stand-alone offices on the site of the old Westbank clinic.

And instead of building a new theatre and studios, they said that they intend to refurbish the town hall.

At a special meeting of Falkirk Council on Monday, the Labour group leader, Robert Bissett, welcomed the signing of the growth deal – but asked for reassurance it would not jeopardise his party’s plans.

He was told that the decision was not in jeopardy – but it did mean that the council would have to go back to the UK and Scottish governments to discuss £6 million that had been expected to support the project.

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: “There’s a recognition by both UK and Scottish governments that people’s shopping habits have changed and there’s a real need to look at cultural regeneration for our town centres.

“That is reflected in the Growth Deal, where there is a contribution towards the provision of the arts centre.

“More critically, this reflects the £45 million of the council’s matched investment.

“How this will be delivered is still to be resolved and will need to be agreed with governments as these detailed business cases are worked up.”

Thank you for reading this article on our free-to-read website. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

Please consider purchasing a subscription to our print newspaper to help fund our trusted, fact-checked journalism.