Innerleithen mountain bike centre plans about to move up a gear

How the proposed Caerlee Mill mountain-biking innovation centre in Innerleithen would look.
How the proposed Caerlee Mill mountain-biking innovation centre in Innerleithen would look.

Plans to create the first mountain-biking centre of its kind in Europe at Innerleithen are about to move up a gear.

Views are now being sought by the project’s organisers as they look to set the wheels in motion to create what they bill as a world-class bike park and innovation centre at the old Caerlee Mill site.

The old Caerlee Mill at Innerleithen.

The old Caerlee Mill at Innerleithen.

A public consultation will be held next Thursday, January 24, at Innerleithen Memorial Hall, starting at 7pm.

Presentations will be given by Canadian leisure and adventure industry consultant Select Contracts, Edinburgh architect Oberlanders and Newcastle-based consultancy firm Urban Foresight drawing on research being funded by Scottish Enterprise.

Next week’s consultation exercise follows one held in 2017 to garner thoughts on how best the Tweed Valley can capitalise further on the growing popularity of cycling as a leisure pursuit, now estimated to be worth £143m to the Scottish economy annually.

An initial business case for the project is one of several proposals in the Borderlands inclusive growth deal currently subject to negotiations between the UK and Scottish governments.

That outline business case is being drawn up by Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS), a partnership made up of Scottish Cycling, Edinburgh Napier University, Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Borders Council.

It has been consulting with businesses in the region, national agencies and international bike brands to develop its proposals.

DMBinS regional mountain bike co-ordinator Ed Shoote said: “The Tweed Valley is already home to some of the best mountain bike riding in the UK, and every year its reputation grows.

“We believe this proposal promotes the area to become the European capital of mountain-biking.

“Following the previous community meeting, the message was clear that Innerleithen had fantastic potential to offer a wider range of trails to complement Glentress – from jump trails to fun family-orientated bike park trails.

“Whilst the plans are progressing with a good deal of political support, we need to ensure the local community is on board with the ideas and will support the proposals.”

The innovation centre will contain facilities that companies have asked for, including cutting-edge prototyping equipment.

The centre will form part of a wider community hub including space for childcare, indoor activities such as a climbing wall, an extra cafe and office for short-term let.

Professor Geraint Florida-James, lead academic at the Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland at Glentress, near Peebles, said: “Crucially, the plans not only promote growth in tourism but maximise the impact of the sport for the local community and businesses by creating new jobs and specialist facilities.

“It builds on the success of Edinburgh Napier University’s Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland project, which, to date, has engaged with over 200 businesses.”

Select Contracts chief executive officer Chris Sutton said: “We were extremely pleased to be appointed as consultants for this downhill bike park project.

“We see Innerleithen as one of the best locations for a bike park in the UK and Europe.

“We are looking forward to sharing our work on this project to date and getting local community feedback.”

Feedback generated by next Thursday’s consultation meeting will contribute towards a full business case to be put together by Select Contracts and Urban Foresight to help amass the funding required, from both public and private-sector sources, to get the project up and running.

Caerlee Mill, opened in 1790, ceased operations in 2013, and planning consent was granted in August last year for 44 houses to be built on part of the site by Edinburgh-based Whiteburn Projects