Falkirk stadium takes one step forward and one step back

Steven Jackson

The next phase of development of the Falkirk Community Stadium took one step forward on Wednesday morning, 30 April, and then took one step backwards in the early evening of Wednesday 30th April in a bizarre turn of events.

A report submitted to Falkirk Council debated at the meeting of the council on 30 April should have resulted in a green light to complete the stadium proposals started by the previous SNP / Independent Administration. Instead there was confusion within the Labour / Tory Administration ranks that led to what appeared to be a reversal of the policy just hours later.

On Wednesday morning Falkirk Council approved the recommendation that Terrace Hill would be replaced by Henry Boot Ltd as the stadium companies preferred developer.

In a rare show of unity both major party leaders, David Alexander and Linda Gow intimated they were prepared to work together to deliver the vision for the site outlined in previous reports approved by the council.

The only dissenting voice was the usual negative contribution from perennial anti Falkirk Gerry Goldie who indicated his refusal to consider the development of the entire stadium site for the betterment of the stadium company.

A further report to consider the master plan for the site proposed by Henry Boot has been called and this should take place before the end of June.

However, in the early evening during the same meeting Labour, Tory and Independent Councillors voted to block an SNP amendment to the Falkirk Local Plan that would have opened the door to the development of the full stadium site.

At present the stadium site is divided into two different planning categories. The first of these is the 42 acre stadium footprint site that is available for development with varied preferred categories.

The remainder of the site, 30 acres, has “eco park” designation and is thus very restrictive in terms of what would be considered acceptable usage on the site.

The SNP sought to relax this in preparation of the submission for the Henry Boot Master Plan that has been widely trailed as being for the full 70 acre site.

However, despite earlier positive statements the anticipated support for the SNP amendment did not materialise form the administration benches meaning that the SNP amendment fell by 17 votes to 14 with Provost Pat Reid abstaining.

SNP Councillor for the Lower Braes, Steven Jackson who is also the fan’s representative on the Falkirk FC board proposed the SNP amendment and expressed his disappointment and confusion at the Administration’s decision.

Cllr Jackson said,

“It would appear that there is no cohesive plan within the Administration of Falkirk Council to deliver what the SNP started at Westfield.

We anticipated support for our amendment to the Local Plan but instead our proposal to relax the planning restrictions on the stadium site were refused leaving the designation as eco park, one of the most restrictive categories in planning terms.

Most worrying is that the members of the Administration who do support the stadium development are being out manoeuvred and out thought by their political colleagues who are opposed to the next phase development.

We will be watching developments very carefully over the next few weeks and will be seeking to hold the Administration to account should they seek to backtrack on the commitment made to support Henry Boot’s plans.”

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