MORE than £50,000 in European funding will help ensure that living and working in the Ettrick and Yarrow valleys remains a viable option in years to come.
That was the message from Vicky Davidson, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for economic development, when she revealed last week that the cash, from the LEADER programme, will pay for a development worker to improve the economy and quality of life in the remote areas of Selkirkshire.
Councillor Davidson, who lives in the Ettrick Valley, told the meeting of Ettrick and Yarrow Community Council that a bid for the funds, submitted last month by the Southern Upland Partnership (SUP), had been successful.
As a result, £52,012 had been approved for a two-year project, entitled “Revitalising the Ettrick and Yarrow Valleys”.
The windfall represents 90 per cent of the project costs of £57,792, with the balance being underwritten 50-50 by Buccleuch Estates and the SUP.
“This means that from April we can fund a development worker for three days a week for two years to do all manner of things, such as carrying out a skills audit of the valleys, looking at ways of creating more local employment, pulling down external funding for other projects and maximising the community benefit from windfarms,” explained Ms Davidson.
“I‘m sure all the hall committees and groups in the two valleys will have many diverse ideas about what this worker could do. It is a great opportunity to make headway without costing the local communities a penny.”
Ms Davidson paid tribute to the SUP, whose Pip Tabor will lead the project, for preparing the bid, and to Buccleuch Estates for providing office space at Bowhill.
She said the cash was a “timely boost” for valleys whose economic growth had been stifled by poor broadband coverage and almost non-existant mobile phone reception.
“A key aim of the project is to create and implement an action plan to ensure that living and working in the valleys remains a viable option in years to come,” said Ms Davidson.
“It may also provide employment to a local resident although, of course, the usual recruitment protocol will be observed by SUP which will be assisted by a small steering group representing the different communities to oversee and guide the process.”
The valleys scheme is the 44th project in the Borders to have benefited from £2.7million of European funding via LEADER (Links Between Activities Developing the Rural Community) which is part of the Scotland Rural Development Programme and is administered locally by the Border LEADER Action Group.
Ms Davidson confirmed this week that £856,000 was still available to be disbursed for community projects between now and 2013 and that four bidding deadlines had been set for this year when the maximum grant will be 75 per cent of total project cost.
He said: “All eligible projects are led by, or result in direct benefits for, local communities and groups of businesses,” she explained. “The outcome in the Borders has been more resilient communities initiating positive change.
“It encourages people to develop new ideas and the exciting projects coming forward are finding innovative solutions to the challenges we face in rural areas.”
Recent successful LEADER projects include the improvement of dive tourism facilities in Eyemouth and the development of the OnlineBorders website to allow Borderers to take part in public consultations.
The 2011 deadlines for LEADER bids are February 3, May 6, August 5 and October 28.
For information on how to apply, go to www.scottishbordersleader.co.uk or contact LEADER co-ordinator Maria Mackenzie at email@example.com or on 01835 826632.