Conservative councillors have challenged a report that says a new retail development in Falkirk’s proposed Gateway site will not have an impact on town centre shops.
The Gateway site, beside the new Forth Valley College and close to the Helix, is earmarked for major development, including a hotel and shops, and Fintry Estates and Hargreaves are the preferred developer.
A report was presented to Falkirk councillors at the latest meeting of the council’s executive saying that the development would not have an adverse impact on town centre.
The independent assessment had been done earlier than usual because of fears for Falkirk and Grangemouth town centres.
But it found that the effect was likely to be small on the high street because it will offer a different type of retail – with shops that will only be attracted to ‘out of town’ developments – and any impact would be more likely to be felt in Falkirk’s retail park, which is trading well enough to absorb it.
However, Conservative councillors were not impressed with this, with Councillor Malcolm Nicol arguing that “people only have so much money and if they spend it there they won’t spend it in the high street”.
Labour group leader Robert Bissett asked if consultation had been carried out with those in Falkirk and Grangemouth town centres and he was assured it had been discussed extensively with the Falkirk BID.
“They had some anxieties but these fears are being allayed by the studies undertaken,” said Mrs Geisler.
But Malcom Nicol said he had difficulty squaring what she said with many letters from retailers telling him that the town centre was “hanging by a thread”.
“While this is nothing on the scale of the retail park, anything that takes shoppers away from Falkirk town centre is not a thing I’d imagine they’re very supportive of,” he said.
“I’m just not sure how many people realise this is an additional threat that’s heading the way of Falkirk town centre.
“In additional to all the threats town centres face, we’re setting up another difficulty for traders and an alternative shopping venue.
“There is only so much money in people’s pockets so however this is dressed up, I can see this coming back to bite.”
Councillor Meiklejohn stressed that the type of retail that would come to the Gateway would not impact on Falkirk or Grangemouth town centres.
Labour councillor Pat Reid warned that while the TiF projects were the envy of other councils he reminded members that Falkirk’s retail park had been given the go-ahead with the condition that no food was sold there.
“However, the developers refused to continue building until we granted them planning permission for food and that led to the decline of the town centre.
“Members want to be careful the same thing does not happen with this and I want my planning committee colleagues to be alert to the conditions imposed there.”