Falkirk Council: Westfield road improvements receive green light
and live on Freeview channel 276
Members of Falkirk Council’s executive agreed to go ahead with revised plans that will see the A9 and A904 around Westfield become dual carriageway, in a bid to improve the movement of traffic between M9 Earlsgate junction and Forth Valley College campus.
However, councillors agreed that the plans to build a futuristic bridge taking pedestrians and cyclists over the roads was no longer feasible, despite Levelling Up funding from the UK government of £20 million.
As construction costs continue to soar, the cost of the project has risen to £25 million and is no longer affordable. Instead, the plans show dedicated cycle/pedestrian routes set back from road traffic and new pedestrian crossings that will link Helix Park, Falkirk Stadium, Forth Valley College, and other future developments.
The UK government has now said it is willing to give £14 million of Levelling Up funding to help make the area accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.
Head of Invest Falkirk, Paul Kettrick, defended the council’s decision to press on removing hundreds of trees around the site in preparation for the works.
“I’d like to stress that irrespective of whether the overbridge is included or not, these works were required for the scheme,” he said.
Mr Kettrick said that the works had to go ahead when they did to avoid the bird nesting season or the project would have been delayed of a further year, leading to costs increasing further and potentially losing Levelling Up funding.
Any delay would also have impacted on the plans that are currently progressing for the Falkirk Gateway development site beside Forth Valley College campus.
The development – which has been a decade in the planning – promises to deliver ‘big box’ retailers, office space and leisure opportunities including a new hotel alongside new homes, including affordable housing.
The combination of the Westfield and Gateway projects are expected to create an additional 4000 jobs and 276,000 square metres of extra commercial floorspace over the next 15 years. There will also be affordable and open market housing brought to the area.
Funding for the road improvements comes through Falkirk Council’s Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) programme – which means business rates fund the costs rather than local people.
Work to deliver the new design will be phased over two years and follows the recent completion of the M9 Junction 5 Cadgers Brae improvements and previous work to M9 Junction 6, both delivered as part of the Council’s TIF programme.
Cecil Meiklejohn, leader of Falkirk Council, said: “Today’s agreement ensures essential strategic transport improvements will go ahead and at a much lower cost, which fits better with the challenging financial position of the Council.
“This is a major milestone and will provide businesses with increased confidence that Falkirk and Grangemouth are great places to be located and operate from.
“It will also pave the way for the development of the Falkirk Gateway site that will bring new retail, office, and leisure opportunities to the area as well as jobs.”
Councillor Paul Garner, spokesperson for economic development, said: “The work to improve our infrastructure will alleviate traffic pressure, improve traffic flow, and help make the area an even more attractive place to invest and do business. It will also make active travel easier and safer for all.”