£7.1m project could see 55 homes built on old high school site in Borders

More than 50 affordable homes could be on the way at a Borders town centre site left lying empty for the last seven years.

Thursday, 2nd March 2017, 5:25 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:06 am
Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker, Mid Berwickshire councillor Frances Renton,the authority's executive member for social work and housing, and Nile Istephan, chief executive of Eildon Housing Association, at the former Earlston High School site.

Scottish Borders Council is proposing handing over the old Earlston High School site to Eildon Housing Association to be redeveloped to provide up to 55 homes for rent.

The council’s executive committee is being recommended to approve that move at its meeting next Tuesday.

If given the thumbs-up, the £7.1m project would also see the creation of a new £120,000 playpark nearby, potentially ending a long-running controversy over the need for such a facility for youngsters.

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The old Earlston High School site.

A feasibility study by the association has identified that the site has the capacity for up to 55 new homes, and, if approved, they could be ready to move into by 2020.

The former high school’s grounds have been identified as a prioritised affordable housing site in the council’s strategic housing investment plan for 2017 to 2022 agreed in November.

That plan estimates that £163m could be invested in affordable housing over those five years, delivering almost 1,200 homes.

Council leader David Parker said: “The council and partners have an ambitious target for affordable housing over the next five years, and by working with Eildon Housing Association, it is hoped the former Earlston High School site will make a significant contribution towards meeting this target.

The old Earlston High School site.

“If this agreement is approved by the executive committee, this development would provide vital accommodation for local people and families, allowing them to live and work in their communities, while also providing a welcome boost to the local building industry.”

Mid Berwickshire councillor Frances Renton, the authority’s executive member for social work and housing, added: “The strategic housing investment plan is an ambitious one which identifies how local housing needs and priorities will be addressed, including which housing projects are anticipated to be delivered over the five years to 2022.

“It is hoped that during the period of the new plan we will see more than double the number of houses delivered than in the previous five years, with the redevelopment of Earlston High School being a major contribution towards achieving this.”

Nile Istephan, chief executive of the Selkirk-based housing association, added: “Delivering record numbers of high-quality affordable homes across the Scottish Borders is a key aspect of Eildon’s strategy over the next five years.

“Addressing housing need across our communities, including high-demand areas like Earlston, is a vital component in ensuring a thriving Scottish Borders.

“Eildon, working closely with Scottish Borders Council and other partners, is delighted to continue to play a central role in these efforts.”

The report also proposes that the council uses funding of £250,000 from its affordable housing investment budget to make up the difference between the £700,000 market valuation of the site and its £450,000 valuation for affordable housing.

The land to be occupied for the proposed social housing has been lying empty since the current Earlston High School opened in 2010.

It was put on the market in 2011 but has attracted only one offer since, says the council.

Part of the old high school site is now occupied by the new £1.6m Leader Valley School for children with additional learning needs.

The provision of a new playpark would potentially heal the rift caused in the town by plans for a £300,000 playground at Mill Meadow, sparking a row ended only by the rejection of those proposals in 2015 after a public vote.