THE multi-million pound Bo’ness harbour and foreshore regeneration project has been given a four month stay of execution in the hope it can be saved.
Falkirk Council members agreed on Wednesday - by 16 to 13 - to a request by developers ING to extend the deadline for precondition work until July, in the hope the housing market picks up.
But there’s no guarantee the project will ever move forward, councillors heard this week.
The alternative option had been to formally ditch the entire £170m ING scheme aimed at bringing 750 new homes, a renovated harbour and new marina, plus hotels and shops to Bo’ness, and remarket it.
This was supported by an opposition motion from Bo’ness member John Constable, who said it would take no longer and would give the town something better than the current non-progress.
The first wave of housebuilding, in the Grangepans area, was meant to be underway by next year subject to detailed planning permission, but that’s not yet been applied for.
In 2008 the scheme was rephased in the hope that early house sales would pay for harbour work, but the economic market has not let this happen.
And with set deadlines missed, it was open to both parties to terminate the development agreement without penalty.
Updating members, the council’s development services director, Rhona Geisler, reported: “ING have tested interest among housebuilders to develop the site and cite significant difficulty in securing interest at a sufficient level of value to enable the scheme to proceed.
“As a result, ING have confirmed that due to the poor residential market, they have to place the project on hold.”
She added: “They cannot commit any further expenditure to moving the scheme forward until there is significant improvement in the economic situation.”
ING didn’t wish to omment further outwith the report this week.
Falkirk Council leader Craig Martin said the council remained “fully committed” to the regeneration of Bo’ness town centre and had agreed to work with ING until July, when they’d decide the way forward.
“Our relationship with ING has been productive to date and we as a council recognise that their experience on a global scale as well as their clear understanding of the local situation offered many benefits to the town,” he said.
“It is unfortunate and frustrating that we cannot move more quickly on this project.
“We want the regeneration of Bo’ness town centre to be a success however we cannot ignore what the marketplace is telling developers.”
Bo’ness Labour councillor Adrian Mahoney said, while the extension had been agreed, he’d want to see some progress to restore some public confidence that they could move forward.
He said he understood the SNP’s frustration, but without a developer waiting in the wings, and the property market facing huge difficulties, ditching it would leave people in Bo’ness with nothing.’’
But Councillor Constable said: “We were told when this agreement was entered into that it was the only way forward. Not only was that not the case, we are now more than three years down the line with nothing to show for it.”
He added: “Now we are just seeing the thing being put back and put back and there comes a point when you must say enough is enough.”