Plans to transform a Borders auction mart into a rural hub as part of a multi-million-pound development have been unveiled.
Newtown’s auction mart site is set to be expanded at a cost of between £5m to £15m if plans submitted to Scottish Borders Council today get the go-ahead.
Site owner Harrison and Hetherington (H&H) hopes to completely revamp the existing mart, just off the A68, as well as building a new development on adjacent land owned by the Cumbrian-based firm.
The proposal would see the mart, staying at its existing location, benefit from new offices and improved facilities, and a hotel, as well as a college or training centre, could be built nearby.
The auction mart remains at the centre of the plans, with extensive new facilities to include a new office, mart cafe, additional covered areas and sale rings.
It is described as a mixed-use scheme including retail, housing, leisure, car parking and the demolition of some existing buildings.
The application, submitted by Edinburgh-based Michael Laird Architects, is the first stage of a long-term development programme for H&H’s holdings in the village.
David Pritchard, joint managing director for H&H Group, said: “The planning application, will, if approved, allow us to provide what would be effectively a new mart in Scotland.
“It will give us and our customers modern facilities for handling stock and access to other vital services and products we can offer.
“Our plans provide two new bays of covered pens of circa 2,000sq m, a new office for staff and for interaction with customers, a new canteen, two new multi-species auction sale rings, new car parking and delivery and servicing accommodation.
“Land the mart does not need is freed up for the proposed town development.
“Further development is proposed over the A68 to the east, where business, light industrial, rural and agricultural retail and training facilities are planned. This will be accessed via a new roundabout.
“The reception to all these ideas via public consultation was extremely favourable, with helpful suggestions as to how they might be improved, rather than voicing opposition.”
Mart access will be turned round if a hoped-for new roundabout on the A68 is approved to stop traffic carrying stock from coming through the centre of town.
Ideas for the development went on show at a public consultation in the village last March and met with approval from the Borders’ farming community.
Following that consultation, H&H Group confirmed that green space was likely to be available for the annual Newtown St Boswells Show and that provision could be made for a bank, health centre or school if there is demand from companies or organisations concerned.
The existing mart, built in 1871, used the Waverley Route railway line to transport livestock elsewhere until its closure in 1969.
Richard Rankin, chief executive of the H&H Group, added that the development could cost anything between £5 and £15m, depending on how it pans out, and would definitely create jobs.
“It’s all speculative at the moment,” he said.
“We have the development ranging from anything between £5m and £15m.
“There will certainly be a fair bit spent on the mart, but when you look at the retail units, housing etc, it will all be dependent on what is decided upon. Undoubtedly, there will be new jobs created.
“The site will expand and grow, so it will create jobs. We don’t want to stand still. We want to move forward.”
He said that so far there has been no contact with potential hotel operators.
“The response gathered at the public consultation was very positive indeed, and it really encourages us to see we have something there worth pursuing,” he said.
“The development is wanted and needed. It’s an exciting venture. We have got the space there and a huge amount of interest to build something there.
“It could be quite the centre of excellence, especially if we can attract Borders College to get involved.
“We believe that the development will not only benefit the mart but also grow Newtown St Boswells as a rural hub, giving homes, facilities and economic opportunities it needs as the centre of the rural community it serves.”
“We will be conducting ongoing dialogue with the community on the plans and on any related matters during the course of the application and beyond.
“Our ambition is to create a centre of excellence for rural services in the Borders.”
A decision by the local authority will be made in the coming months.