An expected decision to site a proposed home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland in central Galashiels rather than nearby Tweedbank has been put on hold.
The Galashiels option still looks to be the favourite, but it would come with a price-tag £1.1m higher, so Scottish Borders Council will have to work out where that extra money would come from before giving it the thumbs-up.
To give council officers time to identify further potential sources of funding – on top of the £3.5m committed by the council and £2.5m pledged by the Scottish Government – the decision expected to be taken yesterday has been put back until November.
Councillors agreed at afull council meeting to discuss in public an officers’ report and business cases for the Tweedbank and Galashiels sites originally set to be debated behind closed doors.
The Tweedbank site had already been approved, but that £6m plan was shelved after Borders MSP Christine Grahame intervened to ask ministers to carry out further due diligence before paying their share of the bill, putting the Galashiels town centre site she prefers in pole position.
That site has now been confirmed as the former Poundstretcher store in High Street and the old post office building next door in Channel Street.
Councillors agreed to consider a further report on Thursday, November 10, then decide whether to progress with development of a tapestry centre tourist attraction in Galashiels or Tweedbank or to ditch the controversial project altogether.
A recommendation that they agree in principle to house the tapestry in Galashiels was dropped, so all options potentially remain open even if that site does still look to be the front-runner.
Council leader David Parker said: “Councillors are carefully considering all the information and business case for the potential Galashiels site for the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre.
“That business case identifies that the Galashiels project is £1.1m more expensive than Tweedbank at its current stage of development, and the project would also need ongoing revenue subsidy.
“We all agreed that more work is required to investigate the potential funding options, with a report to come back before us in November which will enable us to make an informed decision.
“The potential of the Galashiels option is significant and could transform the town into a true visitor destination and become a catalyst for further town centre regeneration, but this would come at a price.
“The Tweedbank site remains a very strong option and would also result in a wonderful facility for the Scottish Borders which would attract significant numbers of tourists and would have a very positive impact on our local economy.”
The Leaderdale and Melrose councillor added: “I am pleased that my fellow councillors agreed to discuss this important matter in public, which enables the Borders public to see all the information that we had before us.
“This is a hugely significant decision for the Scottish Borders, and it is important that we make the process of coming to any decision as transparent and open as possible.”
Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Ms Grahame has welcomed the emergence of Galashiels as the preferred site for the tapestry centre, saying: “For a while it seemed that Tweedbank was a done deal. The council seemed to have made up its mind that there was no alternative.
“I was shocked by the business case, and I felt it was wrong to put the tapestry in an industrial site in Tweedbank when Gala town centre seems a much better site, with the potential for wider economic regeneration.
“A preference for siting the Tapestry in Gala seems to have now become the mainstream view.
“Energise Galashiels, Galashiels Community Council, Galashiels Chamber of Trade, Destination Scottish Borders, Duncan Mackinnon Music and Arts Trust, the Galashiels Healthy High Streets group and my MP colleague Calum Kerr have all expressed their preference for a Gala site.
“However, I note concerns about some additional capital funding, so I have written to the Scottish Government supporting Scottish Borders Council’s application to the capital regeneration grant fund for £2.15m which could be applied to the Great Tapestry of Scotland, while recognising that there is also the potential for other funding sources.”
The 469ft-long tapestry, completed in 2013, is made up of 160 emroidered panels, a dozen of them stitched by volunteers in the Borders.
Both Tweedbank and Galashiels were among the locations at which panels for the tapestry, designed by Andrew Crummy, were stitched, along with Stow, Lauder, Hawick, St Boswells, Jedburgh, Melrose, Kelso, Coldstream, Tweedmouth, Ednam, Gordon, Duns, Smailholm, Gordon, Peebles, Selkirk and West Linton.