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Falkirk: Putting people first and bringing civic life back into the heart of the town

Ambitious plans being developed to regenerate and re-energise Falkirk town centre hold incredible potential in showcasing the art of the possible for communities across Scotland.

A blueprint for the future takes a people-first approach, focussing on demonstrating how towns can provide a sustainable local economy for those who live, work and visit them.

And, taking the needs of the entire town into consideration, it demonstrates that no single organisation holds the key to success – with an ambitious plan to create a new town hall in its centre, have more people living on and around the High Street, while making the most of unique cultural assets which attract hundreds of thousands of people to the area every year and supporting a range of local shops and businesses.

At the same time, it is a vision which aims to also tackle issues such as connectivity, inclusivity and accessibility, while considering the environment and committing to making a cleaner, greener space to breathe new life back into the town.

Vision and Development Framework for Falkirk Town Centre

Picture: Threesixty Architecture

A vision and development framework produced by ThreeSixty Architecture for Falkirk Council to deliver the social and cultural ambitions of the community showcases a ‘joined-up’ approach to regeneration, with town centre living at its heart.

Created in partnership with Falkirk Council, the framework looks at the many challenges facing the town as retail across the UK adapts to an ever-changing environment.

The visionary document recognises that the challenges facing Falkirk town centre are not unique. Indeed, the principles and proposals presented hold real potential in  providing a blueprint for Scotland’s towns.

Bringing together plans already underway through the 2021 Growth Deal, the vision document offers a shared vision for a safer, more accessible and attractive town centre, to make Falkirk a better place to live, work and visit.

Picture: Threesixty Architecture

The blueprint places a people-centred approach at the heart of its plans,  recognising the rich history of the town centre, while showcasing a vision of a re-energised town centre that can help combat isolation, create opportunity and place the Falkirk in a better position from which to pitch for investment.

The proposals for town centre regeneration present what supporters describe as a ‘direction of travel’ that aligns with the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Economy principles – creating a functional town centre that meets the needs of the people who live and work there, boosting local businesses and putting local first. 

Picture: Threesixty Architecture

Proposals in the blueprint include improving connectivity from the high street, which is home to many independent businesses, to the surrounding attractions and services, creating dedicated play areas and urban spaces to provide safe places for young people and families, a gathering spot to play host to festivals and cultural events, and curating and preserving the town’s rich heritage. 

 Specialist support to Repurpose Assets – Falkirk Project Development Support 

Photo: Falkirk Council

The local authority is leading by example when it comes to encouraging people and businesses to embrace – and be based in – the town centre, with exciting plans being developed.

Falkirk Council used the Scottish Government’s Capital Fund to give private owners access to a specialist design team to support the redevelopment of under-used and vacant upper floors in town centre buildings. 

Working alongside the Council’s Development Services Team, the aim is to develop viable residential and mixed-use project proposals that will help reinvigorate the town centre.

The repurposement of buildings is part of the town-centre-first approach adapted by the council to improve the attractiveness of the area, and to encourage greater footfall.

Councillors approved a decision to purchase Callendar Square Shopping Centre and use the site to build a replacement town hall to serve the area, and bring civic life back into the heart of the town.

The purchase of Callendar Square will allow the former Municipal Buildings to be marketed by the Council for sale, providing part funding for the town hall project and further regeneration work for the town centre. 

The New Falkrik Town Hall would also include a new library, support hb, civic centre and office space, serving as a multi-use space for arts, culture and heritage. It is hoped that the work will serve as a catalyst for regeneration of other sites. 

 

Town Centre First approach at the heart of ambitious public realm improvements

Pictures: Falkirk Council

The recent completion of the Newmarket Street and Lint Riggs public realm improvement works marks a significant milestone for Falkirk’s historic town centre.

The ambitious public realm project put a ‘town centre first’ approach at the heart of the regeneration work, to create a safer, greener and more attractive place to live, work and visit.

Following extensive consultation and community engagement, the 30-week project, which was funded from the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Capital Fund, consisted of three separate improvement projects – road maintenance, bus stop relocation, and public realm upgrades – addresses community concerns about pedestrian safety, anti-social behavior, and accessibility.

The work included lowering kerbs to provide an open and accessible space for all, with 1,400m2 of pavement replaced with natural stone to preserve the character and heritage of the town centre. 

The initiative, which incorporated road maintenance to minimise disruption, collaborated with McGill’s Buses for bus stop relocation. It is hoped that the regeneration works will encourage greater footfall in the town centre, encouraging support for local businesses in the area. 

 

Iconic attractions credited with surge in tourism, with further plans in development

Tourism has played a crucial role in bolstering the local economy, with hero attractions such as the Kelpies and Falkirk Wheel proving a huge draw for visitors.

Falkirk Park The Helix has been home to renowned tourist attraction The Kelpies since it opened in 2013. In that 10-year period, the striking sculptures have attracted millions of visitors to the area – with more than 850,000visiting  in 2022 alone.

A recent report from Falkirk Council on tourism strategy highlights how crucial the sector has become to the area, with visitors spending over £137m in 2022, a 70% increase from 2012- the year before The Helix opened.

And the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s only rotating boat lift – attracts in excess of 500,000 visitors a year. It too is a key part of the Council’s Falkirk Area Tourism strategy 2023-2028. 

As well as it’s iconic horse sculptures, the Helix is a thriving eco-park which boasts 30kn of paths connecting 17 communities, and provides a home for a diverse range of wildlife. The Helix serves as an example of how tourism and the environment can coexist in a symbiotic manner, helping to boost local trade whilst contributing to a cleaner, greener future for the town and surrounding area.

By improving connectivity from the city centre to local and surrounding attractions, it is hoped that the many visitors at the eco-park will translate into greater footfall on the high streets and for local businesses.


Falkirk Town and City Gift Card

Picture: Falkirk Delivers BID

Falkirk town centre has harnessed the power of digital to unlock spend for local businesses and encourage footfall on the high street with the rollout of the District Towns Gift Card programme. The card is part of the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card scheme and was introduced by Falkirk Delivers BID through the Towns and Business IMprovement Districts Resilience and Recovery fund.

With over 160 businesses registered on the scheme, including restaurants, cafes, clothes shops, beauty salons and attractions,  the gift cards are an innovative way to lock spend into local economies, providing a boost to local business whilst giving recipients a wider choice of where to spend.

The Falkirk District Gift Card has also been used as a means of offering direct support to those struggling with the cost of living crisis in the run up to the festive period.

In December 2023, Falkirk’s branch of Nationwide joined forces with Falkirk Women’s Council and Children’s Services for a festive toy appeal. As well as toys, they donated £500-worth of District Towns Gift Cards to give families dignity and choice over where to spend the cards in the local area.

Falkirk Delivers BID

Falkirk Delivers Business Improvement District, now in its fourth term, provides support to 660 levy payers in the area. Its impact on local business – and the wider community – has been substantial.

BID Manager Elaine Grant has ensured that sustainability and collaboration remains at the heart of the BID, taking a joint-up approach which enables businesses in the town to support each other:

She said: “I encourage all of our members to tap into the resources they have available through the BID. BIDs play such a crucial role in ensuring that our local businesses access what they are entitled to, funding they might not have realised that’s even available to them, and allowing them to capitalise on that so it brings a benefit to the town centre as a whole.”

As well as improving access to funding for local businesses, the BID has been the driving force behind a number of successful marketing campaigns, including a ‘Rediscover your Highstreet’ campaign following the recent improvement works on Newmarket Street and Lint Riggs. The campaign, which was supported by businesses on both streets, encourages people to continue to support the shops in the areas while the improvement works were carried out. 

And Elaine is optimistic that there are tangible benefits for local businesses following the public realm improvements:

“The improvement works will, crucially, improve town centre safety, by preventing anti-social behaviour and driving footfall back into the high streets, where they can avail of our incredible independent high street businesses, and rediscover the retail hub that is Falkirk,” she added.

Further support for local businesses

The BID’s Falkirk Pub Trail was credited with generating more than £55k in drinks sales in the town’s pubs in 2023, with an average of 33 participants a week. The scheme was designed to revitlaise nightlife in the town and encourage locals to spend money locally. 

In December, the BID ran a pilot scheme of ‘Accessible Shopping Day’, combining inclusivity and economic vitality, with participants spending over £118 per person  in local businesses. Working in partnership with Dial-A-Journey, transport was provided for attendees, catering to mobility needs.

In addition to organising programmes and events, the BID provides an e-commerce grant for local businesses, to help them begin trading online or enhance their online presence – as well as a host of over services and activities. 

Scotland Loves Local 

Members of the BID  have played a central role in the nationwide Scotland Loves Local campaign. Spearheaded by Scotland’s Towns Partnership, this is the drive for people to  think local first and get behind businesses in their community – protecting jobs and services while ensuring there are strong for a more sustainable, successful future.

Not only have Falkirk Delivers and its members championed the message to choose local in their community, but they have been inspiring others across the country to do likewise.

Last year , STV presenter Sean Batty, who spent time living in Falkirk as a child, heard about the importance of choosing local from a number of town businesses and BID members as he visited them for a special video as part of the wider Scotland Loves Local campaign.

BID manager Elaine Grant said: “We cannot underestimate the importance of people choosing local – and we’re blessed with so many brilliant businesses in Falkirk.”