The economic development prospects provided by the railway’s return has been a major factor in the creation of a new business.
Planning consultant Tim Ferguson moved to the area two years ago, looking for a better life for his family and with a vision for what the railway could bring to the region.
Since establishing Ferguson Planning in February, he has set about promoting the Borders as best he can to house builders, developers and retail firms.
However, he told The Southern that vital engagement with local communities, landowners and developers was lacking.
He said that even a simple open day to find out the views of townsfolk on their retail needs, for landowners to outline development opportunities, and for developers or firms to show an interest in the area, could kick start economic development.
Mr Ferguson also called for increased national funding to enable the council to carry out a Borders-wide retail assessment, and for action plans to be created on the back of it for every town.
He said: “The railway is going to bring with it accessibility to the Borders, but it is important that it is about more than just a link to Edinburgh. We must look more at it bringing business and employment to the Borders.”
Mr Ferguson added: “There is interest in the Borders, and I can see the beauty of it for families in terms of the attractiveness of living in the area, but in terms of development, interest is still lukewarm. There is still a lot of focus on the central belt and Midlothian and East Lothian.
“But I can see a bit of a ripple effect if that market becomes saturated, and more when the railway opens.”
He said it was ‘critical’ that businesses were attracted to the area, as well as families.
“There needs to be a strong focus on a strategy for how we go about taking steps – while the railway is being developed – to provide a template for businesses to come and set up in the Borders, much like Edinburgh City Council is doing with Edinburgh Park on the back of the trams. We need to be clear about what the vision is and how existing development opportunities for employment-generating uses are being taken forward and promoted to investors,” he said.
“It needs to be a joined-up, visionary approach involving the council, Scottish Enterprise and private investors.”
But he added that the allocation of some sites as ‘employment land’ needed to be flexible, to allow a greater range of employment opportunities to be created, particularly on sites which have remained unused for years.
“The ‘do-nothing’ scenario is not an option,” he said.