Councillors to rethink tapestry centre plans

Councillors are to be given the chance to pull the plug on controversial plans to site a £6m centre housing the Great Tapestry of Scotland at Tweedbank.

Thursday, 9th June 2016, 2:46 pm
Updated Monday, 13th June 2016, 12:00 pm
Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick MSP pictured with the Glenrothes panel. Measuring 143 metres long, the Great Tapestry of Scotland is one of the longest in the world. The 160 beautifully detailed panels capture unique moments in time during Scotlandâ¬"s 420 million year history. This unique piece of art was devised by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith along with historian Alistair Moffat and artist Andrew Crummy. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

They will be offered the option of voting to create a home for the tapestry at nearby Galashiels instead or scrapping the project altogether.

Other suggested locations for the proposed centre including Selkirk and Hawick have been ruled out, however.

A decision on the fate of the project will now be made in August.

The construction of the centre at Tweedbank had looked to be a done deal after planning consent for it was granted last October, and work was expected to have started in February, but controversy over the council’s choice of site has continued to rage ever since.

That dissent has led to the Scottish Government refusing to commit the £2.5m stake in the project it had provisionally offered to Scottish Borders Council until the plans have undergone further scrutiny.

A spokesman for the council said: “We continue to work with the Scottish Government to carry out the necessary due diligence work for the Great Tapestry of Scotland site at Tweedbank.

“The Tweedbank site has many advantages. It is very close to the Borders Railway and located in an ideal location for the road network.

“The public transport provision by bus at Tweedbank is also excellent, and the site provides high-quality pedestrian and cycle routes.

“Tweedbank’s proximity to Melrose, Galashiels and Abbotsford House, along with excellent road links to the rest of the Borders, is one of the key reasons why the site was chosen.

“The figures published this week which show Tweedbank has had 184,000 passenger journeys since the railway opened – 10 times the original estimate – demonstrate a real desire to use the railhead.

“The tapestry being located in Tweedbank would provide a critical tourist hub for the whole of the Borders and would provide other facilities that would benefit visitors and regular users of the railway alike.

“In recent months, a new opportunity has arisen to consider the location of the tapestry in an alternative development in central Galashiels. Buildings have recently become available that were not vacant when the council carried out its original assessment of Galashiels.

“At present, the council is carefully assessing whether recent developments provide the potential for an alternative location to house the tapestry in Galashiels town centre.

“This opportunity may create an important tourist attraction for the town and at the same time develop a significant regeneration project for the centre of Galashiels.

“Work on Tweedbank and the emerging possibility of Galashiels being the location for the tapestry will continue over the summer, and in August a detailed report will come to councillors.

“This will give Councillors the opportunity to decide whether to proceed with Tweedbank or whether to progress with a project in Galashiels, if it proves viable.

“Councillors will also have the opportunity to cancel the project in August, if they so wish.”

A private report will be presented to councillors on Wednesday, June 29, giving them a detailed update on the project ahead of the meeting the month after at which its fate will be sealed.

Tapestry trustees’ spokesman Alistair Moffat added: “Tweedbank remains the preferred site for the home of the Great Tapestry of Scotland as the trustees believe that a very innovative and strong proposal has been developed.

“Following discussions with the council, the trustees are open-minded about considering a Galashiels option, if it proves deliverable and financially viable.

“The trustees are very clear that no other Borders site, apart from one in Tweedbank or Galashiels, would be acceptable as it is critical that the tapestry visitor centre has the best road access possible and is within walking distance of the railway station at Tweedbank or Galashiels.”

The 469ft-long tapestry, claimed to be the longest of its kind in the world, is made up of 160 embroidered cloth panels depicting dates of interest in Scotland’s history.

It was designed by Andrew Crummy, based on an idea by author Alexander McCall Smith, and sewn by more than 1,000 volunteers.

It has never had a permanent home but has been exhibited all over Scotland since its creation in 2013 at towns and cities including Ayr, Paisley, New Lanark, Kirkcaldy, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee and Stirling.