The controversial permanent home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland being proposed for Galashiels has moved another step closer to fruition now an application for planning consent for the £6.7m project has been submitted.
If approved, the proposed visitor attraction at the former post office and Poundstretcher buildings in the town centre would create 16 jobs and attract more than 50,000 extra visitors to Galashiels every year, say council chiefs.
It would also trigger additional annual spending of almost £900,000 for the local economy, supporting the equivalent of a further 17 jobs, they claim.
The project proposes converting the grade-B listed former post office building, complemented by a bespoke new building designed by architect Page and Park, currently leading the restoration of the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building.
The new attraction would include a permanent home for the tapestry, a 469ft-long community arts project created by more than 1,000 volunteers stitching the entire story of Scotland, as well as temporary space for exhibitions, and flexible space for education, learning and events.
In addition, the plans include space for community and retail facilities including a café.
The Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre already has funding of £2.5m from the Scottish Government, and the facility is at the centre of a regeneration capital grant fund application to the Scottish Government.
The project is being delivered in partnership with Energise Galashiels, creative and business groups, the town’s Heriot-Watt University campus and Borders College.
Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for business and economic development, said: “The submission of the planning application for the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre is the next step towards creating one of the most significant town centre economic development projects to take place in the Scottish Borders in recent years.
“If approved, the visitor centre will be more than a home for the Great Tapestry, but also provide educational, retail and community facilities to benefit a wide variety of groups.
“The visitor centre would also be the first stage of a long-term strategy to stimulate investment in the local economy, and it is pleasing that local groups are supportive of this approach.
“The council and partners are committed to continuing to engage with these groups to ensure they remain at the heart of the regeneration of Galashiels.”
If approved, it is expected the visitor centre would be completed by spring 2020.
This week’s planning application will help allay fears in Galashiels that the change of administration at the council this year might throw the future of the project into doubt.
The tapestry, completed in 2013, is made up of 160 embroidered panels, a dozen of them stitched by volunteers in the Borders.
Both Tweedbank and Galashiels were among the locations at which panels for the tapestry, designed by Andrew Crummy, were stitched, along with Stow, Lauder, Hawick, St Boswells, Jedburgh, Melrose, Kelso, Coldstream, Tweedmouth, Ednam, Gordon, Duns, Smailholm, Gordon, Peebles, Selkirk and West Linton.
The cost of the visitor centre in Channel Street and High Street is now estimated at £6.7m, £400,000 less than first thought and £300,000 less than the price-tag quoted for the location originally lined up at Tweedbank.