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Falkirk businesses ‘devastated’ by rejection of arts centre


Angry Falkirk businesses have warned local jobs will be hit by a refusal to back plans for a new town centre HQ and arts centre.

A number of people have admitted they are ‘devastated’ by the decision to turn down proposals for the High Street.

One furious town centre trader, who did not want to be named, said: “They say they are a council of the future but it is being run by dinosaurs.”

While the Municipal Buildings now lie almost empty as offices have been cleared, the politicians still can’t agree on what should happen next.

After four years of debate, reports and studies – at a cost of around £500,000 – the council is no further forward, as opposition councillors refused to the back the SNP plans.

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Instead, Labour and Conservative groups say the council should build new offices on the current site and refurbish the town hall.

Margaret Foy, speaking on behalf of the Healthy High Street group called the decision “irresponsible” – and said they were very concerned that a sizeable number of local jobs would be directly impacted.

She said: “A gilt-edged opportunity has been lost – one that could have helped to propel the Falkirk area towards a more sustainable and prosperous future.

“If the new town centre HQ and Arts Centre proposal had been approved, Falkirk folk could have had a new modern, efficient and affordable building that came with almost £10 million pounds of guaranteed external capital funding.

“This fully budgeted and capitalised project would have revitalised the High Street and created jobs.

“Instead, the Labour and Conservative councillors have voted against the recommendations of their own experts and now wish to build their own ‘LabourCon’ ivory tower HQ on the existing site, and to spend even more local tax revenue on Falkirk’s costly and inefficient town hall.

“The individuals who voted for this decision very evidently have either not read or failed to understand the clear and very detailed recommendations put to them.

“It was obvious to anyone who watched the proceedings on September 29 that these councillors clearly expect others to pick up the tab for their incompetence.”

Town Centre manager Elaine Grant said that all of the businesses she had spoken to were “devastated” by yet another delay

She said: “We had hoped and plans and dreams for the town centre that have been completely destroyed.

“The town centre needs investments and it needs bold decisions and I’m bitterly disappointed that we don’t have that level of investment now.

“Businesses are asking me why they are going against recommendations that have been years in the planning – they want to know whey they’ve gone against all the evidence that was presented.”

The council leader, Cecil Meiklejohn, said the SNP’s vision was cost-effective and would have boosted the town centre, helping regeneration and recovery.

She said: “Labour, with the Tories, voted it down in favour of half-baked, substandard proposals which had already been examined extensively over several years and found to be severely lacking or inappropriate.”

A spokesperson for the Conservative group said: “The core of the Conservative position is that absolutely, the town centre needs funding and regeneration, and bringing cultural attractors to the area will be a key part of increasing overall footfall.

“However, that doesn’t mean the Council should forget its duties to maximise value for the taxpayer, and avoid excess spending.

“It also doesn’t mean that the first proposal sent forward should be immediately accepted: the importance of the task at hand doesn’t mean rushing it.

“There were several key issues that made agreement impossible.”




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