THE trustees charged with transforming The Haining in Selkirk into an attraction of national significance are celebrating a £352,000 cash boost.
There are also celebrations in Kelso where more than £230,000 is being made available for town centre improvements.
The Scottish Government confirmed on Monday that the grant – from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – would facilitate conversion of the coaching house and stable block at The Haining into six artisan workshops and studios, along with office accommodation.
When up and running – and building work is due to start next spring – the business complex at The Haining will provide a major chunk of the income required to realise the vision of the late Andrew Nimmo-Smith who left the 18th century mansion and its 150-acre estate “for the benefit of the community of Selkirkshire and for the wider public”.
In April, the studios project was given the planning go-ahead by Scottish Borders Council (SBC). External alterations will be minimal and the intention is to maximise the simple elegance of existing archways and the classical features of the courtyard.
The funding bid was considered crucial by the trustees.
“Income generation is the key to our 10-year plan which, if it comes to fruition, will see a gallery of modern art created at The Haining, along with a restaurant and bistro,” said trustee Susan Edington.
She added: “It is very much an evolutionary process and we are grateful that the people of Selkirk appear to have embraced what we, on behalf of Mr Nimmo-Smith, are trying to achieve. It is, however, a long process. Getting the income-generating aspects in place first is the key.”
Work is also under way to create a website to promote the Haining brand. Special Christmas cards will be made available from November 19 when the house will host a craft fair.
A range of other Haining products is also being created, including mincemeat and plum chutney, which will be marketed ahead of the festive season. The main focus of these sales will be at Scott’s Selkirk on the first weekend in December.
Before that, The Haining is opening its doors to the public on Saturday, September 17. Members of the Scottish Heritage Building Trust will be on hand to offer tours of the library, drawing room, morning room and parlour.
“It’s a great chance to see the house as it was and to view our plans for what it will become – a modern art gallery, which could be hired for special occasions like weddings, with a magnificent sculpture park outside,” said Mrs Edington.
A more immediate priority for the trustees is to clear the loch of toxic green algae.
“As we progress towards our goal, we are also considering letting out two apartments in the big house,” added Mrs Edington.
The Kelso Town Centre Business Hub project will also benefit from ERDF cash, receiving £237,000. Plans for the work, which will take place to the east of the vennel at the Black Swan Hotel, have received SBC planning consent.
The creation of high quality business space for small to medium sized enterprises – seven units over three floors at the revamped building between Horsemarket and Woodmarket – will be complemented by the separately funded “integrated green transport hub” linking to the town’s new traffic management system.
Meanwhile, the South of Scotland Business Competitiveness Project, which will help tourism and food and drink businesses in the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway to improve their products and expand into new markets, has been awarded ERDF funding of £584,000.
Reacting to the announcement, Councillor Vicky Davidson, SBC’s executive member for economic development and a councillor for Selkirkshire, said: “The level of investment from the ERDF programme is very welcome.
“Given the economic value of the tourism and food and drink sectors to the economy of the Borders, I am delighted that businesses in these sectors will be able to access further support through the Competitiveness Project.”
And the councillor added: “The announcement that business space for creative industries will be made available at The Haining is excellent news, while the Kelso initiative, linked to the transport improvements, is a fine example of integrated town centre regeneration.”