Go-ahead has been granted for a £6.7m project to create a permanent home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels, but the controversy surrounding it shows no sign of abating.
Scottish Borders Council’s planning department has given the green light to the demolition of the former Poundstretcher store in the High Street and the redevelopment of the old Channel Street post office next to it.
The location is set to become the permanent home for a visitor centre which will create 16 permanent jobs, attract more than 50,000 visitors each year and generate an annual income of £900,000.
But the realisation of the project has been far from a smooth one, with elected representatives from towns across the Borders questioning its value.
Councillor Mark Rowley, the council’s spokesman for economic development at Newtown, is more upbeat.
He believes the visitor centre will prove a great asset, saying: “It will 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.”
Equally enthusiastic is Galashiels and District councillor Euan Jardine, who added: “It is great that a cultural building of national significance will be based in Galashiels. I am sure it will make our town a destination area for many years into the future.”
But many other elected members retain their animosity towards the project.
Councillor George Turnbull, Conservative for Hawick and Hermitage, fears it will become a burden on taxpayers.
He said: “I have never supported the Great Tapestry based on it having been viewed at every location free of charge, and now we are going to expect the public to travel and pay to view, admittedly, a wonderful potted history of Scotland, just does not stack up in my mind. We are going to lumber the taxpayers of Scottish Borders for 30 years with loan charges to pay off a building to house the Great Tapestry something the council does not even own.”
It’s a view shared by Hawick provost Councillor Watson McAteer, who added: “I do not believe there is any serious support for this initiative outside of Galashiels and even within that community I am aware of elected representatives and members of the public who regard this as a complete and utter waste of public money.”
But Councillor Clair Ramage, SNP for Hawick and Denholm, added: “Whilst accepting that folk might have wildly different views we need to move on.”
The project involved over 1,000 volunteers stitching the entire story of Scotland.