Heritage society opposing Galashiels tapestry centre plans

How the proposed Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre in Galashiels would look.
How the proposed Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre in Galashiels would look.

The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland is objecting to plans by Scottish Borders Council to create a £6.7m permanent home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland in central Galashiels.

The Edinburgh-based body, set up in 1956 to “protect and celebrate” Scotland’s historic buildings, takes issue with the proposal to demolish the former Poundstretcher shop on the corner of Channel Street and Sime Place to make way for a gallery for the giant artwork.

The old Poundstretcher in Galashiels High Street.

The old Poundstretcher in Galashiels High Street.

It claims the new building will dwarf the adjoining grade-B listed former post office to be linked to the gallery after being adapted to provide its main entrance and ancillary facilities.

The planning bid, due to be determined by the council’s own planning committee in December, was submitted earlier this month with a deadline of Thursday, October 26, set for public representations.

The society’s response states: “We feel the proposed building dwarfs the listed building in its setting, which will be extremely visible within the town centre and its associated conservation area.

“The physical additions to the listed building are indeed minimal, but it is the effect these proposals have on the conservation area that we must object to.

“The applicant wishes to demolish an entire corner block of historic – albeit not listed – vernacular town centre shops without any case made, besides being previously chopped and changed internally.

“The demolition of historic fabric without a strong case for doing so is against council guidance.

“The proposals will remove an integral corner of the historic town centre.”

On top of that, concerns over lack of parking provision have been expressed by a former senior roads engineer with the council.

In his submission to planners, Russell Cramb, now running his own consulting company specialising in road safety audits, cites a transport statement supporting the planning bid.

That document claims the site “does not merit additional parking provision”.

Mr Cramb states: “If 50,000 visitors a year are expected, then the numbers that arrive by car will surely place pressure on the existing parking provision within the town centre that is currently close to capacity.”

That prediction for the number of visitors the attraction will generate was included in a council press release issued earlier this month.

The release also claimed the new centre will create 16 full-time jobs and boost spending within the local economy by £900,000 a year.

The tapestry, completed in 2013, is made up of 160 embroidered panels, a dozen of them stitched by volunteers in the Borders.

Galashiels was among the locations at which panels for the tapestry, designed by Andrew Crummy, were stitched, along with Stow, Tweedbank, Lauder, Hawick, St Boswells, Jedburgh, Melrose, Kelso, Coldstream, Tweedmouth, Ednam, Gordon, Duns, Smailholm, Gordon, Peebles, Selkirk and West Linton.