Final sign-off of £395m Borderlands growth deal set to be put on hold until end of year

The final signing-off of the £395m Borderlands growth deal, originally due to take place in March, now looks set to be pushed back to the end of the year due to members of the team delivering it being redeployed to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Monday, 3rd August 2020, 1:22 pm
UK northern powerhouse minister Jake Berry, Scottish infrastructure secretary Michael Matheson and Borders MP David Mundell agreeing heads of terms for the Borderlands deal at Glentress in July last year.

The Borderland Partnership – made up of bosses at Scottish Borders Council and their opposite numbers at Dumfries and Galloway Council, Carlisle City Council and Cumbria and Northumberland county councils – bills itself as “a shared ambition to unlock the south of Scotland and north of England’s potential as an economic hub to encourage new business and job opportunities”, but its regeneration programme is to be put on hold for a few more months.

One of the key projects being funded via the deal is a £10m feasibility study into extending the 30-mile Borders Railway by a further 60-plus miles from Tweedbank to Carlisle to recreate the old Waverley Route closed in 1969.

Work on that study is due to begin next month, and a report is expected next year.

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The deal is also set to fund a £19m mountain bike innovation centre in Innerleithen.

Other projects being lined up as part of the deal include the creation of Chapelcross Energy Park near Annan and a theatre and conference centre in Berwick.

The UK and Scottish governments have agreed to provide £350m to bankroll the partnership, with the constituent councils set to add a further £45m between them.

The partnership anticipates that investment will deliver an extra 5,500 job opportunities, attract more than four million extra tourists and boost economies either side of the border by £1.1bn.

Heads of terms were agreed last July, a collaboration agreement was signed by all five local authorities involved in December 2019 and a symbolic signing followed in January, but the formal signing scheduled for March is on hold for now.

A report to Dumfries and Galloway Council’s full meeting last Thursday, July 30, written by growth deal lead officer Chris Travis and policy and performance adviser Donna Mounce, reads: “Work has continued throughout this year on developing the business cases required to progress to the final deal despite the challenges that partners have faced due to the current Covid-19 crisis. 

“It is anticipated that the signing of the final deal will be delayed until the end of this calendar year due to resources being redeployed to other tasks in partner organisations and in both governments.”

Of the £350m government funding announced for the deal, £150m is to be spent in Scotland and £200m south of the border. Scotland’s share of that funding is being provided jointly by the Scottish and UK governments, with £85m coming from Holyrood and £65m from Westminster.