The inclusion of 13 areas of the Borders in a draft Government paper which will enable these areas to get extra funding help has been welcomed.
The UK Government’s draft Assisted Areas map was discussed by councillors at a meeting last Thursday.
As part of an initial submission to the Government, 17 areas, located around the ‘Borders Railway/A7 corridor’ had been put forward by council officers for inclusion.
Douglas Scott, SBC senior policy advisor, told members that he thought the inclusion of 13 of the areas, identified by the former council wards, was a “very good outcome for the Borders”.
Should the map be accepted by the Government in the same form as the draft, it means that the Borders wards included will be able to access additional funding from various sources to encourage employment.
Councillor Stuart Bell, executive member for economic development, commented: “This is a good news story. It is a tremendous opportunity for businesses in the Borders.”
Councillor Michelle Ballantyne added: “I think we should welcome it and take what we have been given, because it is more than we thought we would get.”
In Mr Scott’s report he stated: “This coverage will provide new opportunities for grant assistance for specific businesses investing in these areas.
“It will also allow these areas that are covered to compete on a level playing field with other areas of Scotland and the UK that have the benefit of Assisted Areas coverage.”
The former ward areas to be included in the draft plan are: Burnfoot and Mansfield, Earlston, Gordon and District, Forest, Galawater and Lauderdale, Hermitage, Lower Langlee and Tweedbank, Melrose and District, Netherdale, Old Selkirk, Scott’s View, Silverbuthall, Teviot and Central, and Wilton.
Councillor Ron Smith said: “There will be queries over the wards included, but they have to be contiguous, they need to be a corridor or zone.
“I think it would be wrong to lobby for additional wards to be included as the only way we could do that would be by removing others.”
Councillor Bell emphasised that other support would continue to be available for businesses outwith the selected wards.
He also added that the areas included in the draft map account for a third of the Borders’ population.