Chamber of trade chief sees transport hub as Gala’s ‘welcome’ sign

A SIGNATURE building that will say “welcome to Galashiels” was how the new transport interchange being planned for the town was described this week.

Galashiels Chamber of Trade chairman David Houston was commenting after the Scottish Borders Council (SBC) executive approved design principles allowing detailed design work on the £7million-plus project to be taken forward.

Executive members, meeting last week, heard that the firm working on the Stirling Street project, D5 Architects of Coventry, has taken account of the existing built heritage in Galashiels. Because the site’s surroundings mean the interchange building will be viewed from above, the roofscape is as important as the building elevations and the sculptural mansard roof form takes account of this.

The council is undertaking acquisition, under compulsory purchase legislation, of a number of parcels of land to allow for the development, including the existing bus station, a strip of the B&M store car park and a strip of the Gala Water river bank.

The interchange layout comprises seven bus/coach bays, with space for 10 vehicles to be parked on overnight layover, while still allowing one bay to remain in operation.

The interchange building will be three storeys, with the ground floor housing a concourse tourist and travel information, public welfare facilities and retail opportunities.

The first floor will contain station management and bus operator facilities, with office accommodation on the top.

Ewan Doyle, project management team leader, told the executive the recommendations councillors were being asked to approve were the key design principles for the transport interchange, as well as those dealing with the associated waterside walk and civic space.

In reply to a question from Councillor Gordon Edgar, executive member for roads and infrastructure, (Selkirkshire, Ind), Mr Doyle explained that there would be drop-off points for cars and that the bus station would be operated by the local authority, to allow a level playing field for all bus companies.

Speaking to TheSouthern this week, Mr Houston said it was now a case of “the quicker the better” when it came to getting the project completed. “The design is not finalised, but it’s heading in the right direction,” he said.

“It’s doing what it needs to do and this will be a signature building for Galashiels.

“We need to get away from these box-shaped tin buildings that have been the favoured kind of design and that’s why the roof line for the interchange plays such a big part.

“The pedestrian access being created is also very important, as it will help draw people into the town centre.

“This project ticks all the right boxes and the quicker the better, because we desperately need to get people back into the town centre.”

Mr Houston singled out the revamp of the Market Square and the planned changes to the piazza at the top of Channel Street, plus work in Cornmill Square, as well as the interchange, as four projects vital to the future of Galashiels.

“This interchange will be good, not just for Gala, but for the Borders, because the rail link will bring people into the region as well as allowing them to travel out of it.”

Meanwhile, the third phase of the Galashiels Inner Relief Road project is nearing completion.

The road will remove through traffic from the town centre and will allow efforts to focus on town centre improvements, including the civic spaces in Market Square, Channel Street and Cornmill Square referred to by Mr Houston.

The project’s major change, which is to be implemented on July 17, is that Ladhope Vale and Bridge Place will again take two-way traffic.

A section of Ladhope Vale has been two-way since February, but the full transfer may prove difficult for local drivers who have been used to the one-way system since the early 1990s.

The change will be monitored by Lothian and Borders Police and SBC.

Mr Edgar siad: “Scottish Borders Council is grateful for the patience and co-operation shown by drivers, residents and businesses over the past seven months of construction.

“The opening of Ladhope Vale to two-way traffic completes the inner relief road and allows environmental benefits to be delivered in the town centre.

“The change may be confusing initially for drivers, but we would ask for the public’s continued patience and caution at the switchover, for the safety of all.”