Falkirk Council HQ: Nine hours of debate and this is what councillors decided ...

After a marathon meeting lasting nearly nine hours, members of Falkirk Council put off making a final decision on the site of the new council HQ and arts centre until September.

They did, however, narrow the options down to two suggestions.

At an online meeting today (Wednesday) councillors were asked to approve plans to demolish a block of offices, shops and houses on the High Street/Cockburn Street to make way for a civic centre with a theatre, library, advice hub, meeting rooms and office space.

They were told that a "go-forward" instruction was essential to allow the transformation of an ugly 1960s eyesore into a vibrant space that would anchor the regeneration of the town centre,

Falkirk High Street and Cockburn Street location is being considered for new Falkirk Council Headquarters and Arts Centre. (Pic: Michael Gillen)
Falkirk High Street and Cockburn Street location is being considered for new Falkirk Council Headquarters and Arts Centre. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

After examining the options and weighing up many factors - including cost, complexity and timescale - an officer report had stated the site would be the most suitable, while selling the current site would generate cash.

However, the Labour group had its own proposal.

They agreed with building an arts centre, library and hub on the High Street site - but argued it should be in addition to a separate office building on the current site of Westbank Clinic.

The new proposals were met with disbelief by Margaret Foy, who addressed the meeting on behalf of retailers belonging to the Health High Street Group.

Margaret Foy told members that they shared officers' confidence that the decision would "stimulate growth, build confidence, create jobs, attract further external funding and help secure the future of Falkirk town centre".

She said that moving forward was critical to give struggling retailers confidence.

She told members that retailers were confident that developing the site would "stimulate growth, build confidence, create jobs, attract further external funding and help secure the future of Falkirk town centre".

Members heard that officers had looked at other sites but for various reasons these had eventually been discounted.

They also rejected the current site of the municipal buildings and town hall, saying it would not attract any grant funding and would mean they could not benefit from selling the nine acres of land attached to the site.

However, during the debate it was clear that many of the doubts and concerns members had about the project had not gone way.

Labour group leader Robert Bissett said his group supported the High Street site for an arts and civic facility - with an entrance across from the historic Trinity Church.

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However, they felt that there was not enough space for offices there and proposed instead that the council should also build an office on the site of the current Westbank facility.

They also called for a fuller report on parking for the new arts centre.

SNP Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said she was disappointed that once again they were revisiting old ground.

She said that all the studies had shown that decoupling the office and arts centre was the wrong thing to do.

It would also inevitably add to the cost, she added, and would not support the council's climate change targets.

She added: "Businesses are waiting on this decision and if we get it wrong, they're off."

Members of the Conservative group didn't support a split site - but neither did they agree that the High Street site was the answer, saying they needed more information.

Eventually, Labour's offer to look more closely at the costs of both projects won Conservative support.

Design options and costs for delivery of both projects will now be reported to the council’s September meeting.

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