Groups grateful for cash boosts after public votes counted
A host of Borders community groups and organisations are looking to the future thanks to a council cash injection announced this month.
Some 40 projects will share £300,000 of funding from Scottish Borders Council’s localities bid fund following a public vote to decide the winning initiatives.
The chosen projects, ranging from refurbishing village halls to installing sensory gardens and upgrading Christmas lights displays, will each receive grants of between £1644 and £15,000.
Walkerburn Public Hall was among the big winners, with its management committee securing £13,500 for urgent repairs to its roof.
It received 429 votes, more than any of the other 73 projects bidding for funding.
Hall booking officer Win Pennel said that had come as a surprise. “We’re just a tiny village, and there were 18 projects in Tweeddale, so we were up against all the big guns in Peebles,” she said. “To get the most votes in the Borders is wonderful. We can’t believe it.
“We have 28 user groups that would have been made homeless if we couldn’t fix the roof. We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who voted, and to the ladies in Walkerburn Post Office, who were a huge help. We now need to get roofers’ quotes, but hopefully the work will be done by the end of the year.”
Plans for a sensory garden, obstacle course and fitness equipment in Hawick have also taken a step forward after the project was awarded £15,000. Friends of Drumlanrig Primary School applied for the funding for the new facility in the Loan school’s grounds.
Chairperson Leigh Deas said: “It will be somewhere for all of the community to relax and have fun, and for families to exercise together throughout the year.”
Selkirk projects attracted a large public vote, with two organisations in the town, Selkirk Incorporation of Hammermen and Selkirk Regeneration Company, along with nearby Ashkirk’s Stable Life, all awarded £15,000.
Hammermen’s deacon Alan Tough said the money would go towards development of the group’s hall in West Port, being converted into a local history museum and meeting room for community use.
He added: “We’re delighted for ourselves but also the other organisations in Selkirk. After quite a long time, it seems Selkirk is on the up.”
Stable Life, at Dryden Farm, helps vulnerable young people learn life skills using horses, and it will use the cash to rebuild its indoor riding school.
Chief executive Mags Powell said: “This is a huge chunk of the money we needed, so we’re really pleased.
“We now have about 90% of what we need and are about to launch a crowdfunding page to try and get us over the line.”
The Kelso Wheelers cycling club is also celebrating after receiving the £12,000 it asked for to incorporate facilities for disabled and young cyclists at its Angraflats trails.
Club chairman Ian McKenzie said: “We were well chuffed when we heard we’d got the funding. We built the trails in 2014, and it has proved to be a really successful community project. There’s never a day that you drive by that there’s not kids or adults on them.
“We’re now wanting to make it more accessible.
“The tracks at the moment do not suit the very young or the disabled cyclists, so the money will go towards providing something for them.”
Galashiels Community Council was successful in securing the necessary funds to improve the town’s Christmas lights display and stage a large event around the switch-on.
Community councillor Helen Calder, chairperson of Galashiels Christmas lights and events group, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have won the funding, which will make a world of difference.
“We’re putting on a fantastic day on November 30 for all the community when we will be switching on the lights.
“We’re having a special guest to turn the lights on, a torchlight parade and market stalls.”
Other projects awarded money across the region included the Town of 1,000 Trails in Hawick, Jedburgh Community Council and Peebles Men’s Shed.
Live Music in Hawick, Yetholm Community Council, Newlands Community Development Trust and Beyond Earlston were among the 34 groups that didn’t receive enough votes to secure any funding.
Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison, executive member for neighbourhoods and locality services at the council, said he was looking forward to seeing the successful bids making a difference across the Borders, adding that there would be other opportunities for those that had missed out.
“I understand groups that have not been successful will be disappointed but we will offer them more funding advice if they want to continue to take their ideas forward,” he said.