Falkirk’s Callendar Square shopping centre will be the site of the district’s new town hall, councillors have agreed.
Councillors applauded as agreement was finally reached to press ahead with building a new facility for the town.
At a meeting of Falkirk Council on Tuesday members were told that Callendar Square and the adjacent Antonine Hotel would be the easiest site to deliver quickly.
Work to secure the sale is still ongoing but councillors’ approval is an important step toward work finally starting.
In the report, councillors were presented with three options – with Callendar Square comparing well against the old bus station on Meadow Street or a block of offices, shops and houses at the west end of the High Street and Cockburn Street.
Previously, the Cockburn Street site had been considered the best option but opposition councillors failed to support the venture and the council was forced back to the drawing board.
The latest call for sites noted that with multiple owners at both the bus station and Cockburn Street, compulsory purchase orders would be likely and could delay things.
Previous delays sparked anger from local arts groups who were furious that the decision had taken so long to make that Falkirk Town Hall was eventually closed without any sign of a replacement.
Councillors were warned that the arts community was expecting a professional standard theatre to replace the one that was lost when the town hall finally closed for good this year.
Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said that the decision taken today was “a significant step forward”.
She was seconded by councillor Paul Garner who said the decision put an end to years of indecision and was “extremely good news for Falkirk Town Centre”.
Conservative group leader James Kerr said the decision was “not a silver bullet for Falkirk High Street” but he agreed it was a significant step forward.
The Labour group leader, Councillor Anne Hannah, added her group’s support to the proposal although she added that it would be important to keep an eye on costs and timescales.
Independent councillor Robert Spears said that moving forward with the proposal showed that there was a future for Falkirk town centre.
Councillors stressed that the detailed plans were not yet in place and that design options would be put forward at a later date.
Councillor Billy Buchanan said he had concerns about the risks of the costs of the project and what he said was “inadequate car parking”.
He formally moved an amendment suggesting that they should reject the Callendar Square site and instead revert to building on the site of the Municipal Buildings.
This was supported by Independent councillor Brian McCabe.
Bo’ness councillor Ann Ritchie said she also had concerns about the project and said she would abstain.
“We’ve got 130 buildings for closure but we’re proposing another building!” she said.
However, other councillors said that the business community and arts community were firmly behind the project.
Councillor Meiklejohn said she was disappointed there was not unanimous support and said that all of the issues raised would be dealt with in due course.
She said that the project would bring much-needed regeneration and great economic benefits to Falkirk.
“We have a majority here today to go ahead and purchase the site and our communities are keen to see us get on and do that, so that is very positive.”
Provost Robert Bissett added his thanks to officers who had worked so hard over the years on the project.
“It’s the right decision, it’s the right site and it will be a boost for Falkirk,” he said.