Gondolas at the Raploch may sound a bit far-fetched, but within the next few years water taxis on the River Forth could be integral to life around Stirling, and much more.

The main reason a human settlement was ever established there was because of an ancient ford on the river at that point, the lowest on the waterway.

So the river has been in the community’s DNA for more than a millennium. It made Stirling an important port with its own shipbuilders, and then a cruise destination. However it has been largely disregarded in recent centuries.

But now the local council and its partners on the Stirling City Commission have a multi-million pound vision to put it right back at the centre of Stirling life, transforming the local area.

They hope to build on the experience of the many European cities which have rivers at their heart, seeing the Forth as having the potential to be the major driver of Stirling’s future development and prosperity.

Johanna Boyd, Stirling Council leader said “Stirling turned its back on its river for too long." Now they had to help the city turn around and embrace it, and the huge possibilities it offers.

Symbolic of the new era would be the development of a river taxi network with stops connecting key sites. These would for Stirling University in Bridge of Allan, the Wallace Monument, the Fort Valley College Riverside campus, Stirling Sports Village and Forthside, the 40-acre development which has already regenerated part of the riverbanks.

But there also plans for a barrage which would not only generate green energy for local consumption, but also be integral to flood prevention schemes.

There would be significant expansion and enhancement of the riverside walking and cycle paths, connecting the key river sites and the city centre, and linking to the boat stops.

More work would be done on the peninsulas and riverbanks, to create outdoor experiences with themes including environment, sports, energy and arts performance. But it would also give greater access to locals and visitors for fishing, boating and kayaking.

It would mean more sites could be opened up for residential and businesses development, without undermining the overall environmental experience. Meanwhile the ruins of Cambuskenneth Abbey to the east of Stirling would feel closer.

What would be one of the most ambitious projects in Scotland, is integral to the Stirling City Commission’s strategy to win a City Deal. Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness have been promised hundreds of millions of pounds having already won such a deal from the UK and Scottish Governments.

Ms Boyd said that it was too early to talk about the overall cost of realising their vision for the Stirling and its river. “But we have set aside £2m in this year’s budget for the City Development Framework. This is a series of key infrastructure projects, including the river. These will go to make up our City Deal bid. Half a million pounds will go to the restoration of the old harbour at Riverside.”

Steve Dunlop, chief executive of Scottish Canals who is a local resident and a member of the Stirling City Commission said “It is only in the last few decades that the UK as a whole has started to appreciate the strategic importance of rivers and waterways, something which has long been recognised across Europe. Stirling has been no different. It has seen the Forth as a bit of a problem rather than an asset. But people are now recognising in their renewed ambition for the long term future of this young but economically vibrant city, that the river should not be seen as a dividing but a joining space. It could provide the glue that pulls the city and region closer.”