Fears that a £14m hotel and retail complex being planned at Tweedbank could leave businesses in nearby Melrose, Galashiels and Selkirk out of pocket by millions of pounds a year have been rejected by the developer involved.
Rival retailer the Co-op group lodged an objection to the proposed Borders Gateway development in December, claiming it would hit trade in nearby towns much harder than previously estimated, potentially drawing £14m a year away from them.
That forecast is being disputed, however, by Manor Place Developments, the Edinburgh firm planning to build a Premier Inn, BP garage, drive-through Costa Coffee outlet, Marks and Spencer food store and another shop yet to be identified off Tweedbank Drive.
An economic impact report prepared for the company by Manchester consultant Turley Economics contends that the 5.8-hectare development would have a positive effect on the economy of the Borders rather than a negative one.
It says: “The construction phase will support important investment in the construction sector equating to £14.25m, inclusive of professional fees and infrastructure costs.
“Investment of this scale could be expected to support a gross average of 95 full-time equivalent construction-related jobs on site over the anticipated 15-month construction period.
“Applying the appropriategross value added measures to the net additional employment impact generated by construction indicates that an additional £9.3m could be generated.”
A further £3.3m of gross value added would be expect to follow yearly once the hotel and retail complex was up and running, it is estimated.
“Evidence supplied by the client shows the development will support a total of 125 gross jobs on site during its operational phase,” says the report.
“Once splits between the number of full and part-time workers have been accounted for, the gross full-time jobs supported will number 75.”
The 71-bedroom Premier Inn planned would be expected to host almost 30,000 overnight stays annually, and those guests would be predicted to spend around £1m locally each year on top of their transport and accommodation costs, according to the report.
Turley concludes: “Both the temporary construction and lasting operational economic impacts of the proposed development will support local and national policy commitments to driving sustainable economic development.
“Positive impacts in terms of employment and productivity will be generated and will support and drive further growth in the Scottish Borders’ economy, particularly in terms of the local tourism industry.”
In an accompanying email to council planners, planning consultant Phil Pritchett adds: “It should be noted that the Premier Inn is focused on providing high-quality and reliable bedroom accommodation with a limited food and beverage offering.
“The new visitors expected would therefore seek out food and beverage offerings locally.
“Melrose in particular stands to gain significantly, and there will therefore be a positive knock-on effect on the town as a result.
“We really do believe that the proposal has significant benefits for the wider Borders economy which cannot be realised elsewhere given the unique location of the application site and the significant interest that has been uncovered.”
That optimistic outlook is a far cry from the doom and gloom predicted by Glasgow-based consultancy firm North Planning and Development in its objection to Scottish Borders Council on behalf of the Co-op.
“The proposed convenience good sales floorspace exceeds the combined convenience sales floorspace within Melrose, Newtown St Boswells and St Boswells,” writes North director Graeme Laing.
“The development of up to 2,310sq m of retail floorspace at Tweedbank would cause significant harm to the vitality and viability of Melrose, Selkirk, Galashiels and Newtown St Boswells.
“The applicant’s study predicts a 3% trade draw from Melrose town centre, something we consider to be an underestimate.
“It is reasonable to assume at least 10% of the proposed development’s trade would be drawn from Melrose.
“Retail imports on this scale would have very serious consequences for Melrose town centre, most likely bringing about store closures.
“The anticipated impacts on Galashiels town centre are less significant, but the proposals will certainly not support the health of the centre, which is experiencing challenges, as evidenced by recent Scottish Borders Council retail surveys.”
Galashiels Community Council is also objecting, and its vice-chairman, Richard Kenney, says: “There will be detrimental effects on Galashiels if this out-of-town development should go ahead.
“The increased number and capacity of petrol stations for the area will result in lack of business overall and the possible closure of existing businesses.
“Existing Galashiels retailers are already facing severe economic challenges, and the addition of another store and major catering provider in this location would increase the possible closure of more Galashiels shops and therefore create the loss of more jobs.”