A long-awaited decision on the location of a permanent home in the Borders for the Great Tapestry of Scotland is to be made in secret.
Two options for sites for a visitor centre are on the table – at Tweedbank and in Galashiels town centre – and councillors attending a full meeting of Scottish Borders Council next Thursday, September 29, will be asked to decide which one to proceed with or whether to ditch the controversial project altogether.
The Tweedbank site had been chosen, but the Scottish Government refused to sign off funding for it without further scrutiny, forcing a rethink earlier this year.
It was at that point that an alternative contender in central Galashiels came into contention.
Commercial sensitivity is being cited as the reason for next Thursday’s meeting, at the council’s headquarters in Newtown at 10am, being held behind closed doors, with no members of the public or press present.
Council leader David Parker, a ward member for Leaderdale and Melrose, said: “We are proposing that we proceed to look in further detail at the Galashiels option as this may attract further additional funding that the Tweedbank project could not access, and it would also act as a significant town centre regeneration project.
“Siting the visitor centre in Galashiels town centre would have the potential to unlock substantial benefits for the town, including transforming it into a true visitor destination, which could encourage further positive developments in the town over a number of years.
“The report before members demonstrates that both sites are viable and that the Tweedbank site has a very strong business case.
“Councillors are aware there is very strong support for the Galashiels project from Energise Gala, town centre traders and a whole variety of other business and community interests, and I am very confident that there will be a happy ending for the tapestry project in the Borders.”
If councillors at next week’s private session agree to proceed in line with the undisclosed course of action being recommended, a further report will be presented to them in November giving more details of the project, including confirming potential sources of funding.
Creating a home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland is a joint project with the Scottish Government, and ministers are expected to commit £2.5m to it, with the council paying the other £3.5m expected to be required.
The council has refused to reveal the Galashiels site under consideration, but it is rumoured to include the old post office in Channel Street.
The 469ft-long tapestry, completed in 2013, is made up of 160 embroidered panels, a dozen of them stitched by volunteers in the Borders.
A statement will be issued by the council following next week’s meeting revealing the decision taken.
Both Tweedbank and Galashiels were among the locations at which panels for the tapestry, designed by Andrew Crummy, were stitched, along with Stow, Lauder, Hawick, St Boswells, Jedburgh, Melrose, Kelso, Coldstream, Tweedmouth, Ednam, Gordon, Duns, Smailholm, Gordon, Peebles, Selkirk and West Linton.