Changes made to the plans for the proposed Borders Gateway site at Tweedbank have failed to win the full support of Galashiels Community Council.
At last Wednesday evening’s meeting, Duncan Hamilton. of Edinburgh-based developer New Land Assets, updated the town’s council on the project.
The community council has certainly had its doubts in the past over the viability of the development, which includes a 71-bed Premier Inn, a BP petrol station, an M&S kiosk and a drive-through Costa coffee shop, due to the number of petrol stations nearby and the fact that members would prefer to see a hotel being built in Galashiels instead.
Mr Hamilton said that plans to build a food store had been dropped, in the hope of allaying some of the concerns from the community council and Scottish Borders Council.
The scheme has had 180 letters of support, and five objections, centred around the retail food store.
He said: “What we are looking to do is retain the hotel, but remove the food store element, which I believe a lot of people were objecting to, in order to hopefully allow this to progress.”
Members of the community council had differing reactions to the changes.
Chairwoman Judith Cleghorn was absent as she was on holiday, but secretary Tracey Alder read out an email she had sent.
She read: ““I hope the community council does its best to argue against this development tonight.
“We need a hotel in Galashiels and we don’t think it has been pushed for enough by Scottish Borders Councillors.”
Mr Hamilton said: Premier Inn has said there is not a site in Galashiels that would suit them.
“This scheme will not stop a hotel coming to Galashiels ... in fact, if the Premier Inn does well, I would not be surprised if something like a Travelodge wanted to build in Galashiels.
“It is important to remember that Premier Inn does not just plump for somewhere and build a hotel there.
“They carry out all due diligence before making a decision where to build a hotel ... they will have their reasons for being there.”
Community Councillor Bill Jeffrey said he had concerns over the impact on hotels in Melrose, which he said was “our jewel in the crown.”
And his colleague Drew Tulley said: “There is no land in Galashiels put aside for industry, which is why that part of the land in Tweedbank was for that purpose.
“If we have any industry wanting to be based here where will they go now?”
Mr Hamilton said the land the project was sited was already for mixed use, and that in most industrial estates around the country, you would see a Premier Inn.
Mr Tulley said that there were prime sites in Galashiels for hotels – the Burgh Yard and the old Borders College, which he said was “200 yards from the railway station”.
He added: “I have not been impressed by your presentation.”
There was support for the scheme fromsome members.
Liz Jardine said: “At the risk of being chucked out of the community council, I’m all for it.
“We should be seeing this as a fantastic opportunity ... we need this in Tweedbank and we will benefit from it.”
This week, Nick Johnston, acquisition manager for Scotland, Northern England and Wales at Premier Inn, said: “Premier Inn as the leading mid-market hotel operator in the UK, is the only operator committed to opening a hotel in this area.
“However, I should like to be clear in stating that we believe that this site is the only site where a Premier Inn can operate profitably and viably in the Borders.
“The location is fundamental, close to the station and also well-placed to cater for demand from local tourist attractions such as Abbotsford, Melrose Abbey and close to Borders General Hospital and the businesses in Tweedbank which are growing in number due to the council-led Innovation Park.
“The proposed Premier Inn will also extend the tourist season through operating at full service throughout the year in order to be successful, this will help tourist attractions in the area by having a hotel which can cater for most types of bookings and with over 70 rooms available, this will be a significant boost to the local and business economy.”
New Land Assets is hopeful that the application will be heard at a planning committee in the coming months.