Groups backing town centre tapestry site

The old Post Office building in Channel Street, Galashiels.
The old Post Office building in Channel Street, Galashiels.

Regeneration groups in towns across the central Borders are backing calls for a site in central Galashiels to become a permanent home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland.

Destination Scottish Borders (DSB) – a group set up to promote tourism in Hawick, Selkirk, Melrose, Kelso, Jedburgh and Galashiels – makes its support clear in a submission to the 34 elected members of Scottish Borders Council.

Chopped trees and ground clearing at Tweedbank, site of the Great Tapestry of Scotland

Chopped trees and ground clearing at Tweedbank, site of the Great Tapestry of Scotland

On Thursday, September 29, those councillors will decide if a new visitor centre for the giant artwork should be on site council-owned land at Tweedbank or in Galashiels town centre.

They also have the option of abandoning the project altogether.

Until June this year, when what was described as a “new development opportunity” emerged in Galashiels, councillors were told that if the tapestry did not go to Tweedbank, it would be lost to the Borders.

They then voted to commit capital spending of £3.5m towards the creation of a £6m building on the industrial estate.

However, a major factor expected to dictate this month’s decision will be the site preferred by the Scottish Government as it is committed to spending £2.5m on the facility’s construction, as well as the availability of other funding sources.

In its submission, DSB chairman Will Haegeland, a hotelier in Selkirk, says his association seeks to support the development of opportunities aimed at increasing tourism visits and expenditure across the region.

“All management committee members are in agreement that the most advantageous location for the tapestry in the Borders is in Galashiels town centre,” said Mr Haegeland.

“Here, it is supported by the Borders Railway, large car-parking facilities and will provide the added benefit of supporting the further regeneration of the town centre while attracting much-needed increased footfall.

“Visitors will benefit from town centre services, hospitality and shopping opportunities, as well as being able to visit other attractions in the Borders which can be reached by public transport from the Galashiels interchange.

“These are clear advantages over locating the tapestry on an industrial estate from which there is very limited onward public transport, no additional services and no added benefits to the local economy.”

The DSB endorsement has been welcomed by Mike Gray, chairman of Energise Galashiels, a voluntary regeneration trust which has already lodged a six-page submission in support of the tapestry coming to the town.

“The fact this group represents communities across the central Borders means it is a significant intervention which will surely give councillors food for thought, even those who, in all good faith, have up to now voted for the Tweedbank option,” said Mr Gray.

“There has always been a consensus on the council that the tapestry could bring great economic benefit to the Borders as a whole, and it is heartening to know there is now such widespread support for Galashiels as the means of best achieving this goal.”