Valleys’ vision of the future

Ettrick and Yarrow valley residents get a sight of how they and their neighbours think the area should develop early next month

The Southern Upland Partnership (SUP), targeted 378 homes in Ettrick, Ettrickbridge, Yarrow, Bowhill and Philiphaugh, with the community development plan it had drawn.

Questionnaires were completed by 178 housholds and the results will be open to view in the Yarrowford Hall on September 3, between 3pm-7pm, and at www.sup.org.uk

Respondents’ ages ranged from pre-school to retired over-75s. Of these, 13 per cent said they disliked nothing about living in the valleys, 11 per cent lamented a lack of bus service, 10 per cent a lack of shops, 10 per cent dangerous roads, and eight per cent the lack of broadband coverage.

What people liked most about living in the valleys were the peace and quiet (38 per cent), the scenery and outdoors (35 per cent), and the sense of community and friendly neighbours (18 per cent).

The research revealed a strong demand for homes in the area – 28 per cent of respondents know people who would like to live there – but of the 38 Selkirk High School pupils who responded, just under half said they would not stay after school or university, fewer than a third per cent said they would.

Incentives they said might keep them there incfluded: jobs, cheaper travel, affordable homes, faster technology and shops, and 87 per cent would like a Saturday bus.

Thirty-eight per cent of respondents work in the valleys, with local businesses employing 41 people.

Identified business weaknesses include: a lack of young people and entrepreneurs’ and a lack of local jobs. Thirty-one per cent of those surveyed would like to start a business or be part of a co-operative, and 39 per cent would be interested in sharing their skills and knowledge.

“The sheer range of skills and talent in the valleys is amazing,” reported the SUP’s Pip Tabor. “There’s great potential for the community, if only we could tap into it.”

Twenty-one land owners would be willing to make land available for the community.

Community threats identified by respondents include: an aging and declining population, afforestation, rising fuel costs, loss of local businesses and jobs, houses being used as holiday and second homes, not having the same access as others to services such as transport, communications (broadband and mobiles), loss of community assets (shop, pub, school), and road conditions.

Respondents’ ideas for development included: using local resources to create renewable energy; nature-based tourism and adventure sports on St Mary’s Loch and the rivers; and the marketing the area on the basis of its richness of culture and history.

There are 668 bed spaces available to tourists through camping, caravan, cottage, B&B, hotel and youth hostel accommodation.

“There was an assumption before that there wasn’t enough accommodation in the area to host a big event,” said Mr Tabor. “Now we know that’s not true.”

More opportunities suggested include: encouraging forestry companies to employ local labour, better use of village halls and other buildings and a skills audit to see what knowledge and skills are in the local area.

“It’s now up to local people to carry on the community development plan if they wish,” said Mr Tabor.

“The project runs out of Leader funding in March next year, so we need people to keep things moving, or else everything will just go back to sleep.”