Efforts stepped up to find buyer for Gala’s Burgh Yard

THE former Burgh Yard in Galashiels has gone on the open market, writes Mark Entwistle.

The 2.59-acre property, which is bounded by Huddersfield and Paton Streets, Hill Street, Braw Lads’ Brae and Albert Place, lies in the middle of the town and has been the subject of much debate over its future.

Shops, housing and a hotel were all put forward as possibilities by planners in a guidance document which was approved by councillors ahead of last spring’s 12-week public consultation exercise.

But the report added that whichever developer takes on the Burgh Yard, it will have to deal with ground contamination as a result of woollen mill activity dating back to the 19th century and the decomissioning of a petrol station.

But this week, the erection of the “for sale” boards prompted former local authority leader Drew Tulley to reiterate the warning he made almost exactly a year ago that the site should not be redeveloped as another retail park. Last June he cautioned against any further shopping units being permitted in this area of Galashiels, claiming the latest addition – the Gala Water Retail Park – had damaged trade in the town centre.

Speaking to TheSouthern this week, Mr Tulley, the former long-serving Galashiels councillor who also led Scottish Borders Council from 1995 until 2002, told us: “People want to see the site developed, but there’s a lot of feeling in the town that it should not be used for more retail development – many people think there’s already been too much of that kind of expansion of the southern side of the town centre and I’d go along with that. It should not be used for more retail – something like a hotel or some quality sheltered housing would be better.”

Local chamber of trade chairman David Houston agreed with Mr Tulley’s opposition to any more retail units in this part of the town, commenting: “The last thing Gala needs is more retail development on that side of the town.”

In fact, there has been some interest in developing the site as a hotel. Back in March at a presentation on tourism in the Borders which was given to SBC’s scrutiny committee, VisitScotland regional director Paula McDonald had agreed that the lack of a 200-plus bed hotel in the region was prohibiting the attraction of major events.

And it was revealed at that time by the council’s economic development manager, Richard Sweetnam, that there was “potential hotel developer interest” in the Burgh Yard.

Speaking to TheSouthern this week, Mr Sweetnam had no further specific information on that, but said, in his personal view, it was not unusual for hotels to be built following the construction of a new railway station.

And Mr Houston added: “We know there’s been some national hotel chains sniffing round about the Burgh Yard. If one of them was to take the site on it would be great, not just for Gala, but for the central Borders generally.

“There’s only so many B&Bs in the town and we need to find a way of attracting more than just day trippers. With the relaunch of Abbotsford House and the coming of the railway, a major hotel would be a massive asset.”