Council to consider funding options
£150m masterplan to revitalise flagging Falkirk
Falkirk Council has been presented with an ambitious £150 million plan to revitalise the town centre and is now looking at how it can raise the funds to make it happen.
Alistair Campbell, the founder and managing director of property development company Bellair (Scotland), is behind the project which he believes could be a turning point for the town.
He wants to build a replacement civic centre for the council, a hotel, shops, a 500-seat arts venue and 300 homes on 6.7 acres of largely council-owned land and the site of a postal sorting office straddling the Grahamston railway station.
Mr Campbell, born and bred locally, has had one big success after turning a former General Post Office building into a small business centre. The Falkirk Business Hub in Vicar Street is now home to 38 businesses.
He says Falkirk District Council has been positive about the Grahamston plan and, if it pushes ahead, it will have to decide how to raise the funds needed to get it off the ground. This, he believes, could come from a mix of land sales, leasing of the new property and the use of financial instruments at its disposal.
About two-thirds of the proposed development would be allocated to housing – providing a new source of council tax – with approximately 15% for offices, the same for leisure activities, such as the arts venue and hotels, and a further 5% for retail.
It is estimated that the masterplan could generate more than £50m of direct investment for the town centre and provide an overall boost of nearer £150m for the wider economy.
Mr Campbell, who has brought his son Colin and business consultant Crawford Geddes into the Bellair management team, says: “I was born in Falkirk, have worked here all of my life and believe passionately in the long-term viability and future sustainability of the town and surrounding areas.
“So many times in Scotland and indeed across the UK, we’ve seen the hearts literally ripped out of communities by developments that draw people away from the town centre. Our vision would do the exact opposite.
“This development will help to draw people back into Falkirk’s historic town centre, creating extra footfall for the businesses that are already an integral part of our community and attracting other companies to be part of the next chapter in our story.
“The Kelpies and Falkirk Wheel are truly inspiring and iconic but we can’t ignore what’s happening in the centre itself. Economic development is vital to sustainability and our vision could help Falkirk to effectively self-heal, creating a lasting legacy for the town.”
He adds: “We don’t need to look far to see how other towns and cities have been able to regenerate the hearts of their communities. If we follow the examples set by our neighbours in Dundee and Perth then we too can bring the same economic benefits back into the centre of our community.”
He has spoken to ScotRail franchise owner Abellio about increasing frequency of stops at Grahamston railway station which also benefits from Virgin Trains East Coast serving Anglo-Scottish travellers. It could be renamed Falkirk Central to make travellers more aware of its location.
“We believe the plans for the land, which Falkirk District Council currently owns the majority of, are achievable. I’ve invested significantly to develop this vision, assess its feasibility and present a viable investment and development opportunity for both the public and private sector.”
Industry experts believe the project would not only strengthen Falkirk but could also have a positive impact on surrounding areas including Grangemouth and Larbert. It would allow a more collective vision for the entire district, bringing businesses and communities together.
Mr Campbell says: “We have to stop thinking of Falkirk as a town. The area is fragmented with local communities competing for investment.
“We need to think collectively and share a united vision for the region. If the population of Falkirk district was considered as one, it would have a population to rival Dundee, one of the biggest economies in Scotland. Falkirk, longer term, should be seen on a city level and the Grahamston project could fundamentally help enable this.”
The Grahamston masterplan is now on display at the Falkirk Business Hub during normal working hours. An open evening will be held later in the summer.
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