Falkirk town centre: HQ dispute casts shadow over BID company
Disputes over the long-term future of Falkirk’s High Street have overshadowed the news that the area’s Business Improvement District (BID) has been renewed with a massive 87 per cent of votes.
The ballot result means the BID, through Falkirk Delivers, will continue to promote the town and make sure it is safe and vibrant for anyone visiting, working alongside the council’s economic development team.
Traders contribute £160,000 to the BID through a levy every year and Falkirk Council will provide a further support – this year £79,000.
But as Falkirk Council’s executive discussed the result, SNP councillors said a more recent vote – which stopped plans for a new HQ and arts centre on the High Street – would impact on the BID’s mission.
Councillor David Alexander said: “It’s an excellent report but it’s full of irony – I wonder if that vote would have been the same if the decision [on the arts centre] had been taken prior to the BID’s submission.”
The council leader, Cecil Meiklejohn, urged members not to let their disappointment stop them acknowledging the work that the BID team had done throughout the pandemic.
She said: “The support given to the businesses has been unprecedented and the work they have done in conjunction with Falkirk Council has been invaluable.”
The 87 per cent vote – one of the highest that any BID has ever received – came after the team responded quickly to the pandemic, setting up a delivery service during lockdown and organising a gift card to support local traders.
Praising the team’s work, Conservative councillor Lynn Munro, said the town centre was beginning to thrive – without the arts centre going ahead.
She said: “One of the things missing from the last report was the fact that we have more than 40 new businesses opened during the pandemic.
“We also have new footfall counters and those are telling us that things are getting better.
“And we still have a theatre which is about to produce a panto – a theatre that doesn’t look to me, having stood there in recent weeks, like it needs knocking down.”
Jacqui McArthur, economic development officer, replied: “Yes, we have had new businesses in Falkirk town centre, but many of them have opened up on the understanding that there would be a regeneration project.”
She added that while footfall is going up, it is still at nothing like pre-Covid levels.
Labour councillor Allyson Black also congratulated the BID team and said there was too much negativity at the meeting.
She added: “The decision taken last week was definitely not party politics – no-one envisaged a pandemic and we don’t know the potential repercussions of that yet.
“There are still so many little things that can be done and we might have to give more financial support to the town centre, but working together we can get positive results.”
Mrs Meiklejohn responded, saying: “The little things matter but they are not going to create long-term financial stability for our economy or our town centre – that needs the bigger things to happen and members agreed that several years ago.