If Rio has Copacabana … Gala needs Boleside

Boleside, Galashiels.
Boleside, Galashiels.

COUNCIL bosses have been urged to revisit their decision not to renew a lease for a beauty spot described as Galashiels’ own Copacabana.

Boleside will no longer be rented by Scottish Borders Council (SBC) from March next year after it decided to end a long-running deal with owners Laggan Estates over a series of “impractical and unaffordable” new conditions.

While SBC says legislation will allow members of the public to continue to use the 9.5 acre recreational area beside the Tweed, which it currently maintains, SBC member Sandy Aitchison and former Galashiels town councillor Drew Tulley wish to find a resolution.

Councillor Aitchison told Galashiels Community Council: “I really think Boleside is very important to Galashiels. Rio De Janeiro has the Copacabana, Edinburgh has Portobello and Galashiels has Boleside.

“Generations have visited the area and I think Galashiels Community Council and local councillors need to try to renegotiate with the owners.”

Mr Tulley told TheSouthern: “I am disappointed that there has been no public consultation at all. The council should discuss this matter with the people of Galashiels as Boleside is such a popular and historical place.”

The report that recommended dropping the lease came from SBC’s head of properties and facilities management, Andrew Drummond-Hunt. It was backed at an executive meeting last week and Mr Drummond-Hunt said there are no plans to restart talks with Laggan Estates.

He said: “The council would not try to recommence negotiations.

“The landlord wished the council to prevent persons from launching canoes, camping and parking caravans, to discourage swimming in the river and to provide a 24 hour, seven days per week call-out service to remove persons that the landlord believes are disturbing their fishermen clients. A major difficulty is that this potentially conflicts with rights given to the public under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which allows responsible recreational use of open ground by walkers, horse riders, canoeists and cyclists.

“Furthermore, providing a reactive call-out service to remove offending parties at the behest of the landlord is impractical and unaffordable for the council.

“The ground is open ground and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives the public rights of access to the ground for horse riding, cycling, walking and to the river to launch canoes.”

According to Mr Drummond-Hunt’s report, the act will cover the use of Boleside as part of the Braw Lads Gathering annual rideout.

Former SBC leader Mr Tulley is still concerned for the future of the popular green space, which as been leased by the council since 1976.

He said: “I have some sympathy with the landowners. Fishing is very lucrative for the Borders economy.

“It was owned by the Laird of Gala years ago and there used to be a cafe on the other side of the road. There also used to be a railway station at Boleside which people would stop at and enjoy a picnic.

“It has always been a very popular spot for walkers, swimmers and as a picnic spot.

“But the public should be respectful for the land and the owner. People seem to think they can leave disposable barbecues there and other litter.

“It does not seem possible for the council to patrol Boleside 24 hours a day so perhaps there is a bit of give on both sides.

“I would hope both parties would be prepared to compromise as we cannot just sit back and give away over 100 years of history.”

SBC will be required to remove picnic benches at Boleside at the end of its lease, but a council spokesman said they would continue to support the use of the picnic and amenity site at nearby Sykes Acre.

Attempts to contact Laggan Estates by TheSouthern were unsuccessful.