Plans go in for conversion of old Kelso high school into homes for elderly

The old Kelso high school.
The old Kelso high school.

The former Kelso high school, one of the town’s most recognisable landmarks, would largely be retained if plans submitted this week for its conversion into homes for the elderly are approved.

A detailed bid to create 34 extra care apartments for older people at the old secondary school in Bowmont Street, in addition to 47 affordable homes within its former grounds, will now be considered by Scottish Borders Council planners.

How the extra care complex being planned at the old Kelso high school will look.

How the extra care complex being planned at the old Kelso high school will look.

Selkirk-based Eildon Housing Association, in partnership with Kelso builder M&J Ballantyne, is also planning some demolition work on the site.

That would include flattening the old teaching block, games hall and music block, all dating back to the 1960s, and a partial demolition of the main school building.

However, the majority of the original building, opened in 1939, would be retained.

The conversion of the grade-B listed former school and its redevelopment is being supported by Historic Environment Scotland.

The old high school has stood empty since October 2017, following the opening of the town’s new £21.4m high school in Angraflat Road,

It was put on the market back in February last year, later being sold for an estimated £1.5m to M&J Ballantyne.

The extra care apartments form part of a 10-year vision for the delivery of housing, care and support for older people developed by the council and its partners.

The proposals incorporate one-bedroom apartments over two floors, with support accommodation, a central hub and sensory garden.

A spokesperson for the project’s architect, Galashiels-based Aitken Turnbull, said the new housing had been designed to complement the existing building, adding: “The principal buildings of interest are to be retained.”

The development has been welcomed by Kelso councillors.

Simon Mountford said: “I welcome this proposal as there is a very real and growing need for extra care accommodation in the area.

“We have an ageing population, and it is essential that facilities are provided that meet the challenges that this presents.

“I am also delighted that this proposed development will create a new use for one of Kelso’s most iconic buildings.”

Tom Weatherston added: “I am delighted the old high school is to be developed for extra care housing for the elderly.

“This is part of our 10-year programme to deliver similar projects across the Borders and provide much-needed new housing units designed to the very high standards clients need to live independently, with support, for as long as possible in their own homes.

“It’s also great news that much of the character of the old school is to be retained.

“It’s been a Kelso landmark for a lifetime for many, and it’s great that we will still see the old building still standing for many years to come.”

Michael Ballantyne, managing director of the Shedden Park Road building firm, said: “We are excited by the prospect of being involved in the retention and transformation of the former Kelso high school.

“Our proposals would provide extra care and private housing which will not only safeguard many construction jobs but also have a wider economic benefit.”