Mixed reaction to regeneration plans

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Councillors have approved an ambitious “masterplan” which has been drawn up to change the fortunes of Galashiels and Tweedbank.

As part of the Borders Railway Blueprint programme, the plans – commissioned from independent consultants Stallan Brand Architects – present a variety of proposals to encourage people to live, learn, visit and work in the area, as well as attract inward investment through public and private sector funding.

The documents presented to councillors – which included more than 400 pages of ideas, drawings and artist’s representations –showed plans to regenerate the established urban centre of Galashiels and significantly expand residential areas of Tweedbank and repositioning the current industrial estate as a new “Borders Innovation Park”.

The Galashiels plan ties in with the current plans for the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre and in future phases, looks at opening up the Market Square and overhalking Overhaugh St.

The prospectus also highlights an opportunity to create a new arrival square at Tweedbank station with complementary commercial space, cafes and apartments alongside the development of the Borders Innovation Park, which already has £15m of capital funding committed to it from the City Deal.

Councillor Mark Rowley, the council’s executive member for business and economic development, said: “These masterplans are two of the most exciting projects the council has developed.

“These great prospectuses will be used to encourage more businesses, visitors, homeowners and workers to come to the area.

“Galashiels has proud historical links to the textiles industry which the masterplan recognises should play a role in the regeneration of the town, with the Great Tapestry of Scotland Visitor Centre set to be the catalyst for this transformation by creating significant economic, social and educational benefits.

“A different approach is being taken forward for Tweedbank with the aim of making it an attractive place to live and work through ambitious new residential and business plans closely connected to the railway. While the council cannot delivery all the proposals, the masterplans will aim to encourage the market to invest in both communities, and the Borders as a whole.”

Tom Miers, executive member for planning and environment, added: “The Galashiels and Tweedbank masterplans provide options for the future of both communities. They include ideas for creating jobs, encouraging inward investment and informing the next stage of the Local Development Plan.

“The next step is for the council to draw on these and other ideas to develop formal plans for Tweedbank in close consultation with the public.”

However, the plans were not universally welcomed.

Hawick and Hermitage Councillor David Paterson told us: “I don’t want to sound parochial in any way, shape or form, but I feel that the people of the Borders will be getting a pig in a poke with this.

“There is a lot of detail that has not been discusses fully, and until such time as we get more detail, then I can’t really be 100% for this, and I think other councillors will be of the same opinion.

“I want to see development in the Borders, but at the right price, and I have a lot of deep concerns about this as we could be putting ourselves in hock for many years to come.”

He added: “Talk about putting all your eggs into the one basket.”

Mr Rowley told Mr Paterson: “It is important we do look at the whole of the Borders, but the stronger we can make Galashiels and Tweedbank, the stronger we can make the case for phase two of the railway through Hawick.”

And Jedburgh Councillor Jim Brown said: “I’m pleased to see the plans for Galashiels and Tweedbank, but sadly, I was in an industrial estate in Jedburgh this week and it was under a metre of water.

“We need to have a really long look at theissue of flooding in Jedburgh, and I hope not all the council’s money will be tied up in these schemes and we can still look at what is happening in Jedburgh.”

Mr Rowley countered: “This document is a great template of what we should be looking at rolling out across the Borders.”