Hotel an option for Gala town centre site

WHATEVER happens to the former Burgh Yard at the eastern gateway of Galashiels town centre in the years ahead, remedial measures will have to be taken to rid the land of contamination.

On Monday, Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee approved broad guidelines to govern the development of the one-hectare sloping site which now finds itself at the heart of the town’s new shopping facilities, overlooking large supermarket developments and the Gala Water Retail Park.

It is also bound by a new road – Braw Lads’ Brae – which will eventually carry all through traffic when work is completed on the Galashiels Inner Relief Road system.

Councillors heard that the main objectives of the Burgh Yard planning brief, which is now out to public consultation for 12 weeks, are to “promote sensitive development as a high-quality addition to the town centre, provide clarity of the development principles required by SBC and allow flexibility and innovation in the future development of the site”.

Council planners are certainly keeping their options open on what that “future development” will involve and a series of options are included in the document, including a hotel – handy for the new transport interchange if and when the railway becomes a reality – retail uses and housing.

But a recurring threat to all these scenarios on the council-owned site is ground contamination – the result of woollen mill activity dating back to the 19th century and, much more recently, the decommissioning of a petrol station.

“The nature and extent of this [contamination] will require further survey,” states the brief.

If the site attracts retail interest, then developers will be absolved from cash contributions to local infrastructure and services, although, in what appears to be a somewhat belated warning, the document notes that more shops “may cause migration of business from the town centre”.

Housing developers, however, are likely to be asked to make contributions, not only for the railway line, but also for the expansion of nearby St Peter’s Primary and Galashiels Academy.