Hold-ups hit work on £6m tapestry tourist attraction at Tweedbank

Work on a planned £6m tourist attraction in the Borders is unlikely to get under way before August, councillors have been told.

Friday, 27th May 2016, 12:58 pm
Updated Friday, 27th May 2016, 2:02 pm
The Great Tapestry of Scotland.

Planning permission for a permanent home at Tweedbank for the currently-itinerant Great Tapestry of Scotland was granted in October last year, but several issues still stand in the way of it being acted on, Scottish Borders Council’s latest full meeting was told.

Councillor Stuart Bell, the council’s executive member for economic development, was asked by Councillor Gavin Logan when a report on the operation of the controversial visitors’ centre and the structure and membership of the trust set to run it would be presented to the council for debate.

Mr Bell, a ward representative for Tweeddale East, told his Tweeddale East opposite number: “Officers currently anticipate a report will be brought to council in August.”

Mr Logan then asked for confirmation of a commitment that construction at the site would not be started until that report had been considered.

Mr Bell said he could not recall any such commitment having been made, but he added: “Although the necessary permissions are in place, there are still a number of matters to resolve, so I do not anticipate construction commencing before August.”

The council has agreed to invest £3.5m in capital funding in the project, but it is still awaiting confirmation that the Scottish Government will provide the balance of £2.5m from its Borders Railway blueprint programme.

The building is to be constructed on a council-owned site opposite the new Borders Railway terminus. It is estimated that the centre would attract about 50,000 visitors a year and create 17 jobs.

The proposed two-storey building has sparked considerable opposition locally, but a campaign against it last year was unsuccessful despite mustering a 4,000-name protest petition.

The plans prompted 74 letters of objection and only seven in support, but they were approved by councillors confident that it would boost tourism in the Borders.

Some objectors suggested that the tapestry be housed elsewhere – Galashiels, Hawick and Selkirk being among the alternative locations put forward – but others don’t want it to be exhibited here at all.

Work was originally forecast to start on the centre – to include a cafe and shop, in February this year, with a view to completion in spring next year, but that timetable has now slipped, and a date has yet to be set for construction to begin on site.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland, at 469ft in length, is claimed to be the longest of its kind in the world.

It is made up of 160 embroidered cloth panels depicting significant moments in Scottish history. The historic episodes covered date as far back as 8,500BC.

Created in 2013, the tapestry was designed by Andrew Crummy, based on an idea by author Alexander McCall Smith and sewn by more than 1,000 volunteers.