Here’s a copy of an open letter which the Friends of Kinneil are grateful to have had published in the Bo’ness Journal on 26 March, following up on a feature on the previous week’s front page of the Journal about Falkirk Council’s spending plans in the area. The Friends are asking for fresh impetus towards the transformation of Kinneil, as part of the plan for the area’s economic recovery:
Last week’s Journal front page (‘Missing Out?’), with a striking picture of Kinneil House, examined Falkirk Council’s new capital programme for Bo’ness.
There is an official budget line for Kinneil’s walled garden, apparently allocating (on top of money already spent) over £1m by 2026. However, this substantial sum is ‘to repair the garden walls to make safe this listed property’.
Wall repairs are welcome and necessary, but seem unlikely to attract many new visitors to Kinneil, or sustain many longer-term jobs.
Separately, in September Councillors across parties re-confirmed that Kinneil House and Museum should be earmarked for ‘transformation’ within their Strategic Property Review, to raise Kinneil Estate to its full visitor potential. This was first agreed in the Council’s 2015 Kinneil Masterplan, running to 2025, therefore progress is getting overdue. This decision was welcome too, but the accompanying investment and delivery plan for this more vital aspect remain extremely unclear.
We are asking the Council to give fresh and visible impetus, and investment, to the overall Kinneil Masterplan – engaging also with Historic Environment Scotland to upgrade Kinneil House. Income-generating options from other parts of the site, perhaps including the paddock campsite idea mentioned in your feature, could also be considered.
2022 will be the Centenary of this magnificent estate, with 2,000 years of world-class heritage, becoming a Council asset. As Kinneil’s owners, will Falkirk Council seize the opportunity to celebrate and restate the values of public ownership of heritage assets, and parks – by making the much-needed transformational investment? These social values have meant more than ever during the lockdowns.
Such a commitment would lift everyone’s spirits, and be seen as a major boost to the area’s tourism and economic recovery from the pandemic.
(Chairman, The Friends of Kinneil)