Stirling Council Cannot Be Left to Pick Up Tab
Fresh concerns have emerged over long-running delays to the full transfer of former Ministry of Defence land in Forthside to Stirling Council, after a fiery Council meeting confirmed contamination fears lay at the heart of talks.
In January 2023, Stirling Council announced it had been successfully awarded £19 million from the UK Levelling Up Fund, to put towards development of Ministry of Defence land at Forthside. However, uncertainties still remain over the potential contamination of the land, which has been used as a military installation since 1899.
A row broke out at the recent meeting of the Council’s Finance Committee, after Councillor Gerry McLaughlan probed the project delays – only to be admonished for raising the subject, and his questions ruled out of order by Council officials. After a 10-minute suspension, and with support from Councillors across the room, Cllr McLaughlan was able to continue his line of questioning.
In reply, Council officials admitted for the first time publicly that it was indeed the issue of contamination levels holding back an agreement – including what an acceptable level of contamination would be for the site to be transferred to the Council.
Cllr Gerry McLaughlan said:
‘The development of Forthside offers tremendous potential to the growth of Stirling as a city. It could provide a fantastic opportunity for new jobs, homes and growth going forward. But I am seriously concerned about the quality of the land that the MoD is keen to transfer over to the Council’s responsibility. There has been over 100 years of military use on the site, and caution is extremely important when taking on the development of a site where the contamination hazards remain un-quantified.
‘If the MOD and the UK government are serious about providing support to Stirling developing as a city through Forthside then they should offer to cover any liabilities uncovered in the site going forward, which are attributable to military operations. At present this deal has all the making of the Council being landed with a pig in a poke, and Stirling Council having to pick up the tab.’
Stirling MP Alyn Smith said:
‘Stirling is a growing city, and with the right plans and investment we can develop in a responsible way fit for the future. Councillors are right to scrutinise negotiations with the UK Government and Ministry of Defence, because the risks of land contamination and the associated costs of cleanup to the Council are not unsubstantial. After the Prime Minister’s assurances of such a meeting, I am looking forward to speaking with key stakeholders in the coming weeks to discuss a path forward, and unlock potentially game-changing development for the City of Stirling and our surrounding communities.’
Plans for the comprehensive development of Forthside play a prominent role within the wider £90.2 million Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal, agreed between the Scottish and UK Governments in May 2018. More information here.