Proposed Battle of Falkirk visitor centre upsets the neighbours

Artist's impression of the proposed visitor centre
Artist's impression of the proposed visitor centre

People living near Bantaskine Park are so against plans to build a Jacobite visitor centre on the land that they would be prepared to buy it themselves to keep it for public use.

The  spontaneous offer was made at a public meeting for local residents to voice their concerns about plans to transform the park by building an £8 million visitor centre with a large car park.

Local councillors Pat Reid and John Patrick attended along with the council leader Cecil Meiklejohn, while more than 40 members of the public came along to have their say and ask questions.

One of their biggest fears was that the new owner could sell the land on to a developer for a much greater sum than the £50,000 the council will get.

But Councillor Reid told those attending that the sale has not yet taken place and he stressed that the land will only be sold if planning permission is granted for the proposed centre.

One resident said: “This is prime land – why is it being sold for £50,000? Why was it not put on the open market.”

Councillor Reid told the meeting: “The council asked the district valuer to put a value on the land and that’s the figure he came up with.

“The fact is it is no use to anyone else because you would not get planning permission to build on it.”

One resident asked why only a small part of the land was being sold for £50,000, with the rest being leased.

Councillor Reid admitted that the sale of part of the park was to bring in funds to the council.

“If that’s the case, we’ll give you £51,000 to keep it as it is for the community,” said one resident, with others loudly agreeing that they would be happy to pay to keep it as it is.

Many residents were angry because the first they knew of the project was reading about it in The Falkirk Herald report that followed the meeting.

Residents told the councillors their worries including increased pollution, anti-social behaviour and noise that would disturb the peace of the park which is a favourite with dog walkers.

Resident Ruth Gray said: “When everyone else is reducing traffic levels and emissions, we’re going to have a massive increase imposed on us.

“Does tourism trump everything else? Does the quality of life for people who live there not matter?”

Emily Muir, of Falkirk Allotment Society, said their members were working hard alongside the John Muir Trust on a pollinators project to improve biodiversity.

She said: “To then have these cars and a visitor centre seems to just negate what we are trying to do for the environment in the area.”

Other residents spoke up to say that Lochgreen Road would never cope with the extra traffic, including tour buses, any new development would bring.

And they also wanted to know what would happen if the venture failed and what would happen to the land then.

But they were told that an actual planning application has not yet been submitted – and once they were they would be well publicised and meetings called to discuss them.

Councillor Meiklejohn said: “There are planning conditions that will be put on and you as a community will be able to engage and direct your concerns.

“There will have to be an environmental impact assessment done and a traffic assessment done but nothing can be done until we have an actual planning application in front of us.”

Councillor Reid explained to the meeting that councillors are bound by a code of conduct which means they are not allowed to speak either for or against a development that they might then have to vote on.

He said: “All we can do is take a note of all your comments and concerns and pass them on to the planners – and we will certainly do that,” he said.

Councillor Patrick said he heard their concerns only too well but he agreed they had to wait for a planning application.

He added: “It’s useful to have this meeting to hear how anything that happens there would affect the community at large.”