Identity crisis fears voiced over Tweedbank as council discusses Lowood Estate homes
Council chiefs are being urged to ensure the housing development lined up for the Lowood Estate at Tweedbank is given an identity of its own and doesn’t end up being just an outsized suburb of Galashiels.
Over a year on from its controversial purchase of the estate, Scottish Borders Council bosses are also being told to hurry and do something with it so they can start recouping some of the £11m spent on it.
Those messages were sent out by some councillors as they discussed a draft of their so-called Tweedbank masterplan at last Thursday’s full meeting of the council.
That report, billed as a vision for growth and sustainability, sets out officers’ recommendations for how to go about increasing housing capacity in Tweedbank by 50% and creating space for business, tourism and care facilities, as well as safeguarding some woodland.
Though given the thumbs-up, notes of caution were sounded about how the 300-plus housing development envisaged takes shape.
Jedburgh councillor Scott Hamilton said: “We have Borders towns all with their separate identities. We need to look at that and remember that when we go to consultation about Tweedbank.
“It’s a marvellous town which is almost being created here, but it must have its own feel. There’s a collective responsibility here for members to engage with the public and make sure that they create a town that they are proud of and has a real community feel.”
“We need to get on with it,” said Tweeddale East member Stuart Bell. “Questions are still being asked about the delivery, cost and viability of the Lowood purchase, but that is not the issue here.
“We will only get our £10m back when this is sold on, and it is vital that the marketing of the site is not delayed by supplementary planning guidance.”
Criticising the lack of provision for social amenities, Mr Bell compared the new-look estate that could be created to Innerleithen, a town with a similar-size population but also churches, hotels and shops.
“This housing could add a 1,000 population to the 2,100 that is already in Tweedbank,” he added. “That’s a 3,000 population Tweedbank new town, and I don’t see in this proposal a social focus. I think that’s a gap.
“It’s important that the revision of this guidance takes advantage of the fact that we own Lowood Estate to add value by detailing the social facilities and the core of what is going to be in that new development.
“I don’t want to see a sprawling landscape of clustered housing which simply forces people to drive to necessary facilities.”
Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson said: “I hope this is going to be the great success that everybody says it’s going to be, but I have my doubts. I don’t want to see the development turned into a concrete jungle.
“Is there a danger of turning Galashiels into a real capital of the Borders?”
Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison disagreed, saying: “This is nothing to do with parties or politics – it’s about sustaining the future of the Borders.
“This is not about Galashiels or us taking over Tweedbank to make a capital of the Borders. I think the people of Tweedbank deserve to have a community of their own.”
Chief planning officer Charles Johnston says the council’s investment in the site should be recouped through the development phases through the onward sale of the site with 179 jobs created during the construction phase and a further 173 jobs created afterwards, and a potential economic impact of £150m.”
A 12-week public consultation on the masterplan is now set to get under way.