ETTRICK and Yarrow valleys are to get a development officer in a £60,000 bid to help the rural communities.
The move to revitalise the rural area is being made by Southern Uplands Partnership (SUP)
Self-employed marketing and project manager Julie Nock will lead the grant-aided efforts to improve the valley economies.
She said: “The valleys have an abundance of natural habitats, native species and cultural heritage and are home to some very talented individuals. I’m really looking forward to working with the communities to promote and sustain their unique way of life.”
Similar schemes have proved successful in some of Scotland’s Highland and Island communities such as Knoydart in the Western Highlands, but this is the first to be tried in southern Scotland.
SUP, which aims to support people living and working in the Southern Uplands, has made the two-year appointment and the charity, councillors and local people will form a steering committee to direct Ms Nock’s work. The charity has won money from the EU-Scottish Government LEADER programme to support local initiatives in the £57,800 project.
SUP project manager Pip Tabor said: “The project will involve widespread consultation to find ways to revitalise the valleys and keep people living and working in them. We have also secured funding for a small grant scheme to support some projects.”
Declining population because of a loss of services, job opportunities and affordable housing prompted the SUP action.
Ms Nock said: “As more farms are sold to forestry and cottages get snapped up for second homes, rural areas are experiencing the loss of working-age families and traditional employment prospects. Long-established rural businesses have had to close as visitor numbers continue to fall. The Ettrick and Yarrow valleys have not been immune to this national trend.”
She continued: “My first task is to gain an understanding of the skills available in the valleys so I will be sending out a short questionnaire to all the residents. Once the data is compiled we can begin to look at ways of utilising those skills to develop new business opportunities, increase tourist numbers and, in the long term, hopefully alleviate some of the major issues like employment, affordable housing and the lack of amenities and services.”
The part-time post is being funded by the local LEADER programme and SUP with Buccleuch Estates providing office space. The steering group guiding Ms Nock’s work will include representatives from the five village hall catchment areas (Cappercleuch, Yarrow Feus and Yarrowford in the Yarrow Valley, Boston in the Ettrick Valley and Kirkhope at Ettrickbridge), the community council and SUP, and progress will be reported regularly to valley residents.
SBC councillor Vicky Davidson, who lives in the Ettrick valley, is closely involved with the project. She said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to make such quick progress and now have a development worker in post. I think Julie will be a real asset to the project as she has lived in both valleys and understands the issues faced by the residents.”
To find out more about the project or to become involved email Julie@sup.org.uk