£600 million sought to drive district-wide investment

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BO’NESS and Blackness could benefit from a massive investment scheme in the Falkirk Council area, that the council hopes will get Scottish Government approval by the New Year.

Nearly £600m could be ploughed into the district and 8000-plus jobs created in the next 25 years, plus access improved, if a loan of public funds for specific projects is agreed.

The initiative would kick off in 2013/14, with the aim being these developments - like an upgrade of the A801 Avon Gorge linking the M9 and M8 - would in turn attract businesses and jobs to the area.

In a key stride forward, a business case is being submitted to the Scottish Government/Scottish Futures Trust after councillors gave the ‘Make It. Falkirk’ plan the go ahead at last Wednesday’s full council meeting.

The local authority would repay the TIF (Tax Incremental Funding) loan via non-domestic rates income raised from the development, which spans business areas from logistics to leisure and manufacturing to chemical sciences.

“TIF presents the Falkirk Council area with one of the most ambitious opportunities we have ever seen,” said Councillor Dennis Goldie,
after the economic strategy and development committee he convenes had approved the bid.

“It would give businesses a real chance to thrive and expand, creating jobs and investment benefitting our area.”

Several risk reduction measures were in-built, he said, allowing for phased development.

Important works identified include a dual carriageway and new concrete bridge on the A801 (three-quarters to be paid by the Scottish Government/West Lothian Council).

As well as boosting heavy goods vehicle access, it would help open up the Whitecross Morston Assets site near Linlithgow - earmarked for 1500 homes and over 2000 technology and energy sector jobs, plus general industrial, storage and distribution units.

Other motorway junction upgrades, like the M9 junction five, and contributing partial costs to a flood defence programme for the Grangemouth petro-chemical works are listed.

And 64-acre Kinneil Kerse, comprising fields and marshes, gets mentioned for potential development site 
enabling works, albeit there is no current demand for petro-chemical expansion.

Any future activity would be subject to environmental assessments as it borders the Forth special protection area.

The bid could also see the Falkirk Gateway project between the council and Callendar Estates revived, for a major retail, leisure and mixed use business park.

Following his committee’s approval, Councillor Goldie said: “We still have a long way to go but by submitting this bid to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Futures Trust, it means that we are well underway with our plans.”

Design, planning and marketing activities for the scheme will be progressed in the coming year.

The SNP’s economic development spokesman, Councillor Martin Oliver, welcomed the prospect of TIF investment, especially in the current economic climate, but claimed there was irony, saying Labour had earlier opposed the Scottish Futures Trust.

He pointed to several elements of the bid, towards the district’s east end, as being of national significance, which he said boosted its chances.