THE future development of the historic Chambers Institution in Peebles has been vested in the the people of Peeblesshire after a break of 35 years.
Ownership of the buildings, which house the town’s Burgh Hall, library, museum and art gallery, has been transferred from Scottish Borders Council to the Chambers Institution Trust.
The trust comprises the six elected members of SBC representing the Tweeddale East and Tweeddale West wards, reflecting the fact the council still requires the facility to run its services. Also on the trust will be Councillor George Turnbull, SBC’s executive member for education.
Crucially, the trust, which will have charitable status, will be able to apply for grants to refurbish, upgrade and market the premises which are beyond the reach of the cash-strapped local authority.
The building has a unique history and was originally gifted to the people of Peeblesshire in 1859 by Peebles-born William Chambers of the world-famous publishing dynasty. It was further extended in 1909 with the gift of a library from Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
“The gifts were enshrined in an arcane act of parliament and were never part of Peebles Common Good Fund which is controlled by all 34 councillors on SBC,” explained councillor and new trustee Catriona Bhatia.
“The gifts came with various conditions and legal legacies aimed at ensuring the building continued to play an important role for communities in Peeblesshire.
“The original trust went into abeyance with the regionalisation of local government and the demise of the old town and county council system in 1975.”
Mrs Bhatia said the need to revive the trust had become apparent in recent years when the council drew up plans to refurbish the Burgh Hall and absorb the Citizens Advice Bureau and tourist information centre into the Chambers complex.
The trust was offially revitalised when the new trustees signed a “deed of assumption” drawn up by SBC’s head of legal services Ian Wilkie.
Trust chairman Councillor Neil Calvert said: “The process of revitalising the trust has enabled us to better understand how we can meet the significant challenges of managing this A-listed historic building and provide modern, sustainable and accessible services within the legal parameters we have inherited.
“As trustees, we are now looking forward to working with the local communities in Peeblesshire to breathe new life into this iconic building.”