Innerleithen aims high and says yes to Elibank plans

A community vote in Innerleithen last month shows huge support for a mountain bike uplift and toboggan run, writes Sally Gillespie.

Two thirds of the town turned out to vote and of those, more than 90 per cent supported plans for a mechanical lift in Elibank Forest near the town.

One of organisers AIMUp’s directors, Ian Campbell said: “The ballot result confirms our belief that the residents of the community here are willing to do something to make a difference.”

The result means the group have met one of Forestry Commission Scotland’s (FCS) National Forest Land Scheme minimum requirements of demonstrating community support for their taking over the land.

In addition to the uplift and toboggan run, AIMUp want to add to the existing downhill mountain biking area, building new graded downhill and cross country trails for differing abilities, installing new hill walking tracks and setting up a café and viewing area at the top of the hill.

They also hope to have a car park for more than 200 cars, children’s play area, bike hire and storage, as well as toilets, showers and changing facilities in the £5.5million scheme, which they say could create 100 jobs.

Mr Campbell continued: “We want to say a massive thanks to all who voted, the volunteers who helped with the project, and the FCS Seedcorn Grant which helped fund the ballot. Now it’s up to us to drive the project forward, ensure the uplift is built, that new jobs are created, and more visitors come to enjoy the Tweed Valley.”

AIMUp submitted its application to buy the land from FCS last week and is meanwhile waiting to hear back from Scottish Borders Council – this month they hope – on their planning in principle application.

“A positive decision here is, of course, crucial to our progress, not only is it a prerequisite to be able to build anything, it’s a trigger to allow us to progress our applications for funding. In speaking to prospective funders, it was clear no money would be forthcoming without a successful planning application in place. Seeking funding is the next big hurdle for the group,” said Mr Campbell.

The downhill and cross country mountain biker, one of eight directors, says AIMUp hopes to have the uplift operational in 2014.

He told us: “Local bikers are massively positive about the idea. Some are not so keen, insisting that you can ride your bike uphill, you shouldn’t need a lift. Our answer to that is, when you’ve done as much riding uphill as you can, but you still would enjoy one more downhill adrenalin rush, jump on the lift. But this uplift isn’t just for mountain bikers. We’re proposing building an attraction that caters for all and has something for everyone to enjoy.”

For further information visit http://aimup.org.uk/ or ‘Support-the-Innerleithen-Uplift;’ on Facebook.