Work to improve and restores an estate described as ‘a history theme park’ is set to be pushed forward after funds to restore the old walled garden were approved.
At a meeting of Falkirk Council’s executive on Tuesday, councillors agreed to more than £200,000 worth of improvements to the Kinneil Estate’s walled garden, which was previously used by the council as a nursery for growing plants.
Some of the area is currently being used by the social enterprise Sustainable Thinking Scotland – whose work includes growing fresh fruit and vegetables to be given to the local food bank – and councillors were full of praise for the organisation.
Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn admitted that while progress had not been as fast as anyone would have liked, she felt the report showed that the investment is now there along with the chance to take things forward.
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Labour and Conservative councillors argued that the plans did not go far enough and said that the walled garden had to be considered as part of the overall masterplan for the entire estate, which includes around 200-acres of parkland and the historic Kinneil House.
The Labour group leader, Robert Bissett, said the estate was “the nearest thing you’ll find to a history theme park in Scotland”.
He said it was vital that the masterplan for the estate is back on track in for next year, which will be the centenary of the estate coming into public ownership.
He asked for a report in the spring with definite plans for Kinneil Estate as a whole, including options for a potential National Lottery bid.
His colleague Allyson Black said that while the work of Sustainable Thinking Scotland was of great value and welcomed by everyone, it was just one small part of the estate which was “much loved and valued by residents”.
Councillors from all parties agreed that the enabling works should go ahead, in three separate phases, starting with £132,504 to include surveys, drainage installation, drinking water and foul water connections.
The second phase will see more structural alterations at a cost of £28,161 while phase 3 has been awarded £79,056 for work that will include the demolition of the large glasshouse, provision of new toilets and WiFi.
This work is in addition to recent repairs to the walls and the installation of new gates.
Ian Shearer, chairman of the Friends of Kinneil, said: “We thank councillors across parties for giving much-needed impetus to the wider 2015-25 Masterplan for Kinneil Estate.
“2022 will be the centenary of the magnificent Kinneil House & Estate first becoming public heritage assets.
“Definite plans for the future transformation of the estate as a whole, and a clear vision for how it can contribute to the area’s economic recovery – as well as firm routes to major funding – would be among the fitting ways to mark this milestone and are long overdue.
“In the meantime, it is also positive to see the agreement by councillors to continue investing in the ongoing good work, necessary repairs and infrastructure improvements at the walled garden, and to integrate this within the wider vision referred to above for Kinneil and Bo’ness”.