£1.8m council handout means extra care homes plan can go ahead at Galashiels

The housing site formerly home to Glenfield Mill at Langhaugh in Galashiels.
The housing site formerly home to Glenfield Mill at Langhaugh in Galashiels.

Council chiefs have pledged up to £1.8m to ensure a housing development in Galashiels can go ahead after its projected bill was bumped up by the discovery of asbestos on the site.

Eildon Housing Association is planning on building 39 extra care flats on the site of the old Glenfield Mill at Langhaugh.

The homes are being funded by private borrowing, Scottish Government grants and money generated by Scottish Borders Council’s second home tax.

However, unforeseen costs relating to asbestos contamination and flooding risks have led to the council pledging a larger sum than originally envisioned.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has asked for additional requirements to be implemented to safeguard against flooding from the River Tweed.

Furthermore, the brownfield site has been found to be contaminated with asbestos not apparent at the time the land was purchased.

At a meeting of the council’s executive committee today, October 16, councillors agreed to plug the development’s funding gap by up to £1.8m, to be taken from the local authority’s affordable housing investment budget.

The council’s chief financial officer, David Robertson, told the committee: “The site at Langhaugh has proved to be a difficult one.

“It’s close to the river and SEPA have a number of objections to the delivery. It’s also been established recently that the site is subject to an element of contamination and the cost of sorting that out is still unquantified.

“What we wish to do is earmark up to £1.8m in order to assist with the delivery of this service.”

Kelso councillor Tom Weatherston spoke in support of the development, saying: “This is a good news story, I welcome this.

“I see this as a spend to save as this will save the council money moving forward, plus it provides a service which enables people to stay at home longer. I think it’s a great initiative, and I fully support it.”

Speaking after the meeting, the council’s executive member for business and economic development, Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, said: “The delivery of extra care homes right across the Scottish Borders has been identified as a priority, and I am delighted that we’ve now been able to support a second development.

“Thanks to ongoing work with our partners, the Todlaw homes in Duns will the first of around 150 to be built over the coming years and hopefully Eildon Housing’s development in Galashiels will follow closely behind.

“Providing appropriate accommodation is vital to increasing the amount of care that can be provided to people in their own homes, helping them to live independently and in their own communities for as long as possible and also reducing the impact on various public services.

“That is increasingly important as the proportion of older people living in the Scottish Borders is expected to rise dramatically, and research has shown that over 60% of people going into residential care could have avoided this if extra care housing schemes had been available.”

The plans, submitted tothe council’s planning and building standards department in September 2017 and originally costed at about £5.5m, include the demolition of the old workshop building and a modern five-storey building being put in its place.

As well as a staff area and offices, the proposals include a flexible lounge and dining area for up to 32 people and a commercial kitchen.

Nile Istephan, chief executive of the Selkirk-based association, said: “We are delighted to progress this exciting scheme, which is instrumental in the delivery of the progressive new older people’s housing strategy for the Scottish Borders.”

“This is part of a major programme of affordable home-building in the Borders whereby Eildon is committed to delivering over £100m of investment to create 750 new high-quality affordable homes for our communities.”