WORK has started on a new pontoon that aims to make the River Forth a key feature for Stirling for the first time since the 1940s.

The £270,000 development of the city’s Old Harbour is expected to help attract an extra 250,000 visitors annually – giving the local economy a predicted £10milion-a-year boost.

Contractor Gareloch Support Services (GSS) started work on the 35 metre river pontoon on Monday (July 30) and it is slated for completion at the start of September.

Environment and Housing committee Convenor Cllr Jim Thomson and Vice Convenor Danny Gibson visited the site as work began on the project.

And the council says it is just the beginning of ambitious regeneration plans for the River Forth as Stirling bids to make the most of its waterfront.

Cllr Thomson said: “This pontoon is an important step in bringing about the rejuvenation of the River Forth and integrating it back into the city again as a key asset.

“Up until the 1940s, ships were a common sight tied to the docks along Shore Road, but the river has been an untapped resource… until now.

“We want to show that Stirling is far more than just our historic castle and this development will make it a massive draw for residents and tourists by offering river trips and it will create an alternative gateway into the city for leisure vessels visiting us by river.

“A Lowland Market Research study estimates an extra £10million will be generated for the local economy by turning our river into an attraction for potentially an additional 250,000 visitors a year.”

Cllr Gibson said: “We are bringing the River Forth back into the heart of the city’s life.

“So many cities around the world make their rivers a focal point for tourists so this pontoon is about making the River Forth a significant natural and cultural asset again.

“This will hugely enhance tourists’ experience of Stirling by providing a new way to enjoy the wealth of historical sites and natural beauty of the area from the river.

“Stirling Council has long term City Deal aspirations for a number of pontoons along the River Forth with a view to offering tourist boats in the future to help generate jobs.

“So this is just the start of us transforming the river and making the most of our waterfront.”

The pontoon landing stage will be 30 metres long, with an additional five metre section for rowing boats and kayaks.

The state-of-the-art pontoon and access walkway will rise and fall with the tide and is designed to be wheelchair compliant.

The site is in such a state of disrepair that it has been closed off from public access and the new work is being carried out in conjunction with the restoration of the Old Harbour Wall.

The project is costing £270,000 with £153,000 awarded through the Coastal Community Fund and the remainder from the Council Capital allocation.

The Coastal Communities Fund is funded with income from the Crown Estate’s marine assets and delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of the UK Government and the Scottish Government.

City Development Framework consultations in 2015 identified that Stirling’s relationship with the River Forth could be significantly enhanced to add considerable value to Stirling for residents and visitors alike.

Cllr Thomson added: “This pilot project will lead the way in Stirling reconnecting and integrating with its river, as well as providing the potential for numerous recreational facilities that will transform it into a real community hub long into the future.”