Estate, Friends, Kinneil House

Friends urge Councillors to act after anger at Kinneil report

The Friends of Kinneil are calling on Councillors across parties to reject a report about Kinneil Estate which has been prepared for a meeting of Falkirk Council’s Executive Committee next Tuesday, 4 October.

The Executive had a year ago called for more progress on the Kinneil Estate Masterplan 2015-25, unanimously requesting officers to bring back a report ‘with definite plans for Kinneil Estate’, including options for major sources of external funding such as a potential Heritage Lottery bid.

There is now dismay that the report which is being presented to Councillors next week contains no such plans, and is instead a general paper about ‘Strategic Parks Masterplanning’ covering the Helix Park, Callendar Park and Muiravonside Country Park, in addition to Kinneil Estate.

The paper recognises that Kinneil Estate has the existing agreed Masterplan adopted over 7 years ago, but sets out no vision, investment options, commitment or timetable as to how some of its main, still untapped opportunities for tourism and economic development will be progressed. It then proposes that in advance of the expiry in 2025 of the current Masterplan delivery period, further planning for Kinneil should be put behind that for Callendar Park (including the development of ‘a significant bid to National Lottery Heritage Fund’) and then Muiravonside Country Park.

Ian Shearer, Chairman of the Friends of the Kinneil, said: “This report being presented to the Council Executive is extremely disappointing. We hope that Councillors across parties will roundly reject it, as it is manifestly not what they had unanimously asked for.

“It offers little sense of vision or ambition from the estate’s owners, nor of its potential contribution to much-needed economic recovery and development as had been promised.

“The paper barely recognises the exceptional historic attractions or the estate’s status as part of a World Heritage Site. The thousands of visitors whom the Friends have met over the years, would probably find it hard to believe the lack of enthusiasm, inspiration or investment commitment in this report.

“This year should be a celebration of Kinneil’s Centenary as a public heritage asset, after the local Council began acquiring the estate in 1922 – also not mentioned.

“It seems to be being proposed that Kinneil should return to the back of the queue for major external fundraising. What message does this send to the community and to volunteers, if this is how Kinneil and Bo’ness are again rewarded?”

The paper also provides insights into the unequal budget allocations at the four strategic parks inherited by the Council after previous management until April this year by Falkirk Community Trust. The park at Kinneil is stated to have a revenue budget of just £14k/annum, Muiravonside’s is c£84k/annum plus staffing costs, whilst that for the Helix is c£785k plus staffing costs. The budget for Callendar Park is more difficult to interpret from the paper as it is stated that facilities there are split across four different divisions of the Council. In addition, the report outlines how Zetland Park, not one of the Council area’s strategic parks, was prioritised from 2014 for major funding for its recently-completed development project, stated to have cost £2.52m including a total financial contribution from the Council of £0.78m.

The detailed agenda paper for the Council’s Executive Committee can be read here.