Councillor backs student flats plan for Gala mill building

Bristol Mill, Galashiels. Proposed conversion into student flats.
Bristol Mill, Galashiels. Proposed conversion into student flats.

PLANS to convert a derelict former mill in Galashiels into student accommodation have been described as a “winner” by one of the town’s councillors, writes Kenny Paterson.

Haddington-based applicant Ewen Brown hopes to turn Bristol Mill, situated in Edinburgh Road, into a 108-bed building solely for students attending Heriot-Watt University and Borders College.

The former spinning mill has lain empty since 1998, but architects for the plans believe the dilapidated B-listed building could now be retained.

Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison said: “I have had a good look at the plans and the transport statement and it looks as if this will be a winner.

“My only slight reservation is the access onto the A7, but I am sure that is such a minor problem it will be easily overcome.

“I am really pleased to see this building getting a new lease of life and what could be better than supporting our college and university, and providing accommodation to serve these campuses.

“We are a university town and proud of it and this project cements that relationship.”

Mr Brown told Scottish Borders Council in his application that there is a need for private accommodation for university and college students in the town.

He added: “Bristol Mill will add 108 beds to Galashiels private landlord pool and be made available solely to students.

“The development will also complement the university and college, in that extra accommodation choice will encourage students to choose to study in the Borders.

“There will be a knock-on effect of easing the housing shortage for other residents of Galashiels as well as encouraging other private landlords to bring their housing stock up to a quality above what students can expect.”

The mill was founded in 1885 by Roberts, Dobson and Company and had a host of owners before shutting its doors 13 years ago. It was included on the Buildings At Risk list in 2009, which described it as “among the best surviving mills in Galashiels”.

Mr Brown said: “Currently Bristol Mill is in a poor state of repair, it’s uninhabitable and many would consider it an eyesore. I’m sure everyone will agree that its refurbishment is greatly needed and will be an improvement to not only the immediate area but also to the town.”

Councillor Aitchison said: “I have been driving past this building for so long now and seeing its gradual deterioration from its once-proud status as a hive of manufacturing has been a great sadness. Many people have asked me, ‘What is happening to the Bristol Mill?’

“For many years it was full of activity, noise and bustle. I particularly remember lorries loading and unloading as they parked at the bay on the A7 side. That familiar ‘mill smell’ of yarn and oil, the clatter and banging of the machines was especially evident in hot weather when all the windows and doors were open.

“I really hope this will come to fruition – it could really lift that entrance to Galashiels and make many people proud of the town again.”

A spokesman for architects Camerons said: “The proposals present perhaps the best opportunity to bring a new use to a redundant, dilapidated, B-listed building and ensure its retention as a valued part of the built environment in Galashiels.”

A decision is expected on the plans by the first week of 2012.