Moffat road proposal in valleys revival project

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FINDING £2million to reinstate a road last used in the 1950s is just one idea to revitalise the Ettrick and Yarrow valleys.

Reopening the old road from Potburn to Capplegill would put the head of Ettrick valley within eight miles of Moffat, says valleys project officer Julie Nock.

The Valleys Community Development Plan is being published on Monday and will be available in the communities’ five halls. There is a drop-in session for anyone interested at Yarrowford Hall on Monday and the document can be viewed at www.sup.org.uk.

Ms Nock said: “Monday’s drop-in session is to give everybody a chance to have a look and ask questions, and for people to see that there are lots of ways forward for the valleys and lots of ideas for people to take forward themselves if the project does not go on after March.”

The Valleys Community Development Plan is the result of 18 months’ work by regeneration project officer Ms Nock and others.

It follows a survey of 378 homes in the five communities of Ettrick, Ettrickbridge, Yarrow, Bowhill and Philiphaugh. Households completed 178 questionnaires. The respondents’ ages ranged from pre-school to over-75s.

Estimates for resurfacing four miles of the road between Potburn and Capplegill over Bodesbecklaw stand at £1.5million to £2million. It was last used by traffic at the end of the 1950s and most recently by a vintage tractor rally in June this year.

“Opening up this route would bring the Ettrick into community distance with Moffat and allow us to attract tourists and new residents,” said Ms Nock in her report.

She also suggests a forest toll road from Potburn to the A708 (Moffat to Selkirk road) for locals and forestry companies which would direct timber trucks away from valley roads and allow locals access to Moffat.

Other infrastructure suggestions include extending the forest road that links Eskdalemuir into the top of the Ettrick to keep forestry trucks off valley roads, and car sharing.

Other ideas in the document are to develop a tourism group and bring on tourism in the valleys generally, for instance by training local people to be guides, develop St Mary’s Loch and walking in the area.

Concerning housing, suggestions include a housing needs survey, setting up a housing trust and contacting people who know someone who would like to live in the valleys to find out what they need to move here. Another proposal is to ask landowners to donate land in perpetuity to social housing.

Business ideas include encouraging existing businesses to diversify, artist and crafts people linking with tourism, creating a list of people who want to start a business or co-operative and working with them to develop ideas, farmers making bracken compost, and finding out whether anything could be created from the multitude of stones in the valleys – for example selling them to garden centres.

The two-year £60,000 project, due to end in March, is funded by Leader and supported by Buccleuch Estates and the Southern Uplands Partnership (SUP).

SUP’s Pip Tabor said: “The sheer range of skills and talent in the valleys is amazing. There’s great potential for the community.”

Other opportunities listed in the community development plan include: using local natural resources to create renewable energy; using peace and quiet and scenery to market the area, developing nature-based tourism and encouraging adventure sports on St Mary’s Loch and the river systems. Another suggestion is that the richness of culture and history could be used to market the area or be the basis of events.

So far 21 landowners have said they are willing to make land available for the community and the survey revealed there are 668 bed spaces for tourists in camping, caravan, cottage, B&B, hotel and youth hostel accommodation.

“The number of beds available in the valleys is astonishing” said Mr Tabor: “There was an assumption here before that there wasn’t enough accommodation in the area to host a big event. Now we know that’s not true.

“It’s now up to local people to carry on the community development plan if they wish. The project runs out of Leader funding in March next year, so we need people to keep things moving, else everything will just go back to sleep.”