Plans being drawn up to turn old Kelso High School into extra care homes for elderly

The old Kelso High School in Bowmont Street.
The old Kelso High School in Bowmont Street.

Plans are being drawn up to convert Kelso’s old high school into an extra care housing development for the elderly.

Galashiels-based firm Aitken and Turnbull Architects has submitted an initial planning request to Scottish Borders Council to transform the Bowmont Street building.

Its bid does not yet include specific details of the size of the proposed development, also including new-build private housing elsewhere on the site.

However, next week members of the public will have the opportunity to view its plans to date at the former school site in Bowmont Street.

That pre-application consultation event is being held on Thursday, November 22, from noon to 8pm.

Kelso building firm M&J Ballantyne is in the process of buying the site from Scottish Borders Council for a reported £1.5m.

It proposes to retain the original building and refurbish it to provide extra care housing for Selkirk-based Eildon Housing Association.

The building has been empty since October last year following the opening of the town’s new £21.4m high school in Angraflat Road, and the site has been on the market since February this year.

Councillors agreed to accept an offer from M&J Ballantyne following a private report to the council’s executive committee last month.

The original school building dates back to 1939 and is grade-B listed, so its retention and redevelopmentis being supported by Historic Environment Scotland.

The extra care housing development in the proposal is part of a 10-year vision for the delivery of housing, care and support for older people developed by the council and its partners.

Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, the authority’s executive member for business and economic development, said: “I am delighted that a sale is being progressed for this important Kelso town centre site with a local building firm with a reputation for creating high-quality developments.

“If the application is approved, it will provide a host of benefits to the local community.

“It will provide extra care and private housing for local people and bring a disused site back into use while also retaining an important listed building.

“I would encourage local people to come along to this consultation event to find out more and share your views.”

Michael Ballantyne, managing director of the Shedden Park Road building firm, said: “We are excited with the prospect of being involved in the retention and transformation of the former Kelso High School.

“Our proposals would provide extra care and private housing which will not only safeguard many construction jobs but also have a wider economic benefit.”

John Duncan, director of property assets at Eildon Housing Association, added: “We are pleased to be one of the partners in this project which would bring the former Kelso High School site back into productive use by providing more extra care housing.

“This is another key project in our programme which will deliver 750 much-needed new homes across the Scottish Borders by 2021.”

The site is earmarked to host 50 prospective new homes in the council’s five-year strategic housing investment plan.