Forum believes redevelopment is the only way forward for the Vennel

Campaigners believe the future of a controversial 1960s development in Linlithgow must involve a full revamp.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Community campaigners have called on West Lothian Council to re-engage with the town on the Vennel’s future.

There was anger in the Royal Burgh when the council claimed the redevelopment would not be viable in the current economic climate.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Campaigners argue the award-winning building has had its day and redevelopment will be the cheapest option in the long run.

Campaigners are calling for a full redevelopment sooner rather than later, before maintenance costs rise.Campaigners are calling for a full redevelopment sooner rather than later, before maintenance costs rise.
Campaigners are calling for a full redevelopment sooner rather than later, before maintenance costs rise.

Having promoted costed plans to redevelop part of the site, local groups – including the town’s planning forum – said they were promised a seat at the table but there had been just one meeting.

In February West Lothian Council’s executive heard that the cost of “transformative redevelopment” was unlikely to be achieved given a recent valuation of the site owned by the council, including a car park which nets the council around £100,000 a year.

Councillors agreed to test marketing the sites it owns, including the car park.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, this week the Planning Forum pointed to Linlithgow’s latest Local Place Plan which details proposals to replace the eastern end of the Vennel with new flats and a hotel, as well as retaining a car park.

Ron Smith from Burgh Beautiful, who has worked with John Kelly from the Planning Forum on the proposals, said the council would be unlikely to find a buyer to redevelop the two tracts of the Vennel which it owns, unless the rest of the site was part of a wider redevelopment.

Responding to the council’s decision, the Planning Forum said: “From March 2022 there has been no interaction between the council and the forum and therefore it came as some surprise to members that the redevelopment cost was said to be prohibitive.

“The council has undertaken no capital cost estimating so how would they know? A figure of £35 million was mooted as a potential cost. It would appear this figure was taken from the options appraisal exercise completed by the Planning Forum in 2017.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The Vennel buildings are over 55 years old and probably designed with a design life of 60 years. The buildings will attract high maintenance costs between now and their final demolition.”

The favoured proposals for the Vennel were incorporated into the Linlithgow Local Place Plan which was recently submitted to, and registered by, the council.

The proposed redevelopment includes two main areas – the former library, a number of commercial units, former public toilet and open space areas, with the second being the public car park which is let to a third party on a commercial lease.

The Place Plan is the community council’s own plan, not approved by the council.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A council spokesman said: “The council has commissioned a valuation report and it is clear that the transformative redevelopment sought for the Vennel may not be achievable.

“The only way to determine if redevelopments can be secured is to test the market and the council will undertake a formal marketing exercise, reporting back on the outcome later this year.

“We are also due to meet with community representatives in the near future.”

Related topics: