Borders national park bid looks to be non-starter, meeting told

A suggested bid to boost tourism by creating Scotland's third national park in the Borders looks to be a non-starter, according to Scottish Borders Council chiefs.

Wednesday, 31st August 2016, 3:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st August 2016, 5:04 pm
Jedburgh Town Hall.

It is now two years since conservation groups opposed to the ongoing proliferation of wind farms blighting the region’s scenery joined forces to call for the creation of a national Park roughly within the boundaries of the former county of Roxburghshire but excluding Hawick.

If their campaign were to succeed, that area – currently the subject of seven wind farm planning applications – would follow in the footsteps of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, given national park status in 2002, and the Cairngorms, designated in 2003.

Campaigners for a Borders national park will hold a stakeholder event in Jedburgh Town Hall on Thursday, November 17, from 6.30 to 9pm.

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“We want people to come and find out more, ask questions and contribute ideas on forming a Scottish Borders national park,” said campaigner Jane Bower, vice-chairman of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland.

They have also begun work on a feasibility study to present to the council as without its endorsement their proposal would stand little or no chance of proceeding any further.

At last week’s full council meeting, Hawick and Denholm councillor Watson McAteer said there was “a significant level of public interest” in the proposal and queried whether it looked to stand any chance of success .

He asked Hawick and Hermitage councillor Ron Smith, the authority’s executive member for planning and environment, what position the council proposes to take on either supporting or opposing it.

Mr Smith replied that, judging by a meeting in March of campaigners and officers from the council’s planning and economic development departments, it looked to be a non-starter.

“Our officers have expressed the view that the proposal would be unlikely to meet the qualifying criteria set out,” he said.

“In addition, they are not convinced such a designation would actually deliver the benefits the proposers are suggesting.

“Officers also have concerns about the economic implications of the park, its administration and financial viability.

“As matters stand, officers are not convinced that a sound case has been made for a national park.”