An application for a building warrant for the new home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels could be made as soon as February.
That next step towards the creation of a £6.7m permanent home for the 469ft-long artwork, following the granting of planning consent for the project by Scottish Borders Council last month, means that demolition work on the old Poundstretcher building in High Street could get under way in the spring.
That would clear the way for a construction contract for the tapestry’s new home, to be linked to the former post office in Channel Street next door, to be awarded next October, with a view to completion in March 2020.
If all goes according to that timetable, the new centre would open to public in April 2020, ready for the summer season of that year.
The centre is expected to attract more than 50,000 visitors a year, creating 16 jobs.
It is also expected to generate almost £900,000 for the Borders economy, supporting a further 17 jobs.
The progress now being made on creating a home for the tapestry, stitched by more than 1,000 volunteers between spring 2012 and autumn 2013, has been welcomed in its new host town.
Mike Gray, chairman of the Energise Galashiels regeneration trust, said: “We are delighted that progress continues as planned with the new centre to house the Great Tapestry of Scotland and to create facilities for visiting exhibitions.
“This will be a major regeneration boost to our town centre, and we hope it will lead to a return of retailers, attracted by the expected increase in footfall in Galashiels.”
Tapestry trustees’ co-chairman Alistair Moffat said: “In more than 40 years in and around public life in Scotland, I have never seen anything like the Great Tapestry of Scotland. It is a cultural phenomenon that has inspired love, laughter and tears in the hundreds of thousands who have seen it.
“It is truly a national treasure, one that tells Scotland’s story in a fresh yet traditional way, making it accessible to all ages and interests.
“For Galashiels, to have a national treasure with international appeal will be a huge step forward in the regeneration of the town as visitors come in their thousands.
“This is a beautiful work of great art, and I am proud that its home will be in the Borders.”
Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, the council’s executive member for business and economic development, added: “The creation of a centre to house the Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels is key to a long-term strategy to regenerate the town.
“I see this as a hugely exciting opportunity, and I’m convinced the centre will be a huge asset to Galashiels.
“With planning permission now achieved, we hope to make swift progress next year, including the removal of the former Poundstretcher building, which has become an eyesore in the town centre.”
The tapestry, designed by Andrew Crummy, comprises 160 embroidered panels, 12 of them stitched by volunteers in the Borders at Tweedbank, Galashiels, Stow, Lauder, Hawick, St Boswells, Jedburgh, Melrose, Kelso, Coldstream, Tweedmouth, Ednam, Gordon, Duns, Smailholm, Gordon, Peebles, Selkirk and West Linton.