Cautious welcome for Bo’ness gap site redevelopment

180912 Boness, vacant site opposite fire station.
180912 Boness, vacant site opposite fire station.

EMPTY land dubbed an embarrassment at a major gateway into Bo’ness is now a step closer to redevelopment, after outline approval was unanimously granted on Wednesday for a scheme potentially creating around 120 jobs.

On the gap site off Linlithgow Road, opposite the fire station, Mr and Mrs Gordon McLean propose to build industrial business units to the west, plus a care home and close care units on the east.

Falkirk Council’s planning committee dealt with the application, as the care element fell outwith the current exclusively business/industrial land use designation.

The site has been vacant since Russell Athletic’s clothing factory closed over a decade ago, with most remaining buildings demolished around seven years ago.

Gordon told the Journal and Gazette: “I’m obviously delighted. It’s been quite a long, expensive and arduous task. We had to spend quite a bit of money but at the end of the day it’s been worth it. We didn’t expect it to be easy.

“It will bring jobs, in the form of construction but also employees, maybe 50/60 people (for each part), which can only be good for the town.

“There’s still a bit to go, a lot of work to do. It’s the first step.”

Gordon confirmed there was still - as reported in April - a ‘big, Scottish-based player’ in place for the nursing home element and a ‘potential, major client’, currently locally based, to become sole industrial tenant but due to confidentiality, he said: “At this stage I wouldn’t pull any names out.”

There was no confirmation of when detailed plans would go in, but construction would be kept local.

Rhona Geisler, the council’s development services director, had recommended the green light be given, subject to conditions. She reported, on balance, it was an acceptable departure from the development plan. There was 
potential to provide a good residential environment for care home and close care unit residents, including sufficient open space, while safeguarding the amenity of dwellers to the north of the site.

Good access to community facilities and public transport was noted.

“In summary it is considered that the proposed development would secure industrial/business use at the site, albeit on part of the site, provide a significant level of jobs in respect of the care home use and provide a moreattractive frontage to Linlithgow Road than an industrial building.”

One supporting letter from a member of the public commented on the site’s prominence, that it was derelict and unsightly, and welcomed the proposals as a way to improve its appearance.

Bo’ness councillors Sandy Turner (SNP) and Adrian Mahoney (Labour) both backed the proposals and potential jobs boost.

Sandy, who likened the plot to a bombsite, said: “Nursing homes are a booming business these days. People are living longer. We are underprovided for in that respect locally.”

He anticipated a site visit at the next stage with potential concerns on approach roads’ layout, given the nearby fire station and commercial traffic.

Adrian said: “I think people want to see the site being cleared up. It has become an eyesore. It’s a gateway to the town. Many people have come to me about it. The challenges are it’s a private site.”

He did urge caution that outline permission did not guarantee development, and said he really hoped action on the ground would be achieved.