Future visions unveiled for Galashiels and Tweedbank
A series of ambitious ideas to transform Galashiels and Tweedbank and encourage people to come to the whole of the Borders have been unveiled.
The masterplans were presented to councillors at a full meeting of Scottish Borders Council (SBC) on January 25.
As part of the Borders Railway Blueprint programme, the plans - commissioned from independent consultants – present a variety of proposals to encourage people to live, learn, visit and work in the area, as well as attract inward investment through public and private sector funding.
Both prospectuses present different visions, with the Galashiels masterplan aiming to regenerate the town centre while the Tweedbank masterplan suggests opportunities to expand the village and reposition the current industrial estate as a new Borders Innovation Park.
In line with the Blueprint’s main themes, the Galashiels document focusses on how complementary residential, retail and business space to help regenerate the town could be delivered.
The Galashiels vision also includes regeneration-led activities, with the opening of the Great Tapestry of Scotland Visitor Centre, clearly positioned as the first phase component, set to be the catalyst for further projects, such as the local business-led plans to create a Galashiels Business Improvement District (BID).
The masterplan focusses on six town centre locations and highlights the creation of world class connectivity, a quality active travel network and investment in existing and new buildings as key requirements if Galashiels is to become an international town which is an attractive place to live, work and visit.
Amongst the ideas included in the masterplan is an opportunity to further extend Market Square into a more flexible events and activities space which could host major events and festivals, farmers markets, functions and seasonal activities, in line with many towns across Europe.
The vision also reviewed a series of potential hotel sites in the town, which would meet the demand for accommodation in the central Borders, particularly when major events take place.
Consultation has been held with local businesses and community, as well as arts and tourism organisations on the Galashiels masterplan. The council is also currently working with the Scottish Government and Scottish Futures Trust on the housing element of the document as a pilot project.
Councillors agreed that the Galashiels masterplan proposals will be brought forward to a future Economic Development themed Executive meeting for further discussion.
Two public consultations events have already been held for the Tweedbank masterplan, with the latter being attended by over 200 residents, while discussions have also been held with local businesses.
The Tweedbank masterplan identifies the potential for a new residential and business development on the Lowood Estate which would attract local residents and those moving into the area who wish to use the nearby Borders Railway.
The prospectus also highlights an opportunity to create a new arrival square at Tweedbank station with complementary commercial space, cafes and apartments alongside the development of the Borders Innovation Park, which already has £15 million of capital funding committed to it from the City Deal.
The opportunity for Tweedbank to become a hub for arriving visitors to go on to explore the landscape and tourist attractions of the area is another option included in the study, while a new footbridge across the River Tweed, plaza area and community hub are other ideas contained within the overall masterplan.
The vision also explores the benefits of increasing the car parking provision of Tweedbank train station to meet demands of an expanded village and Borders Innovation Park.
It is intended that the Tweedbank masterplan will inform the preparation of Supplementary Planning Guidance which will be subject to a formal consultation exercise.
Councillor Mark Rowley, SBC’s executive member for business and economic development, said: “These masterplans are two of the most exciting projects the Council has developed.
“These great prospectuses will be used to encourage more businesses, visitors, homeowners and workers to come to the area.
“Galashiels has proud historical links to the textiles industry which the masterplan recognises should play a role in the regeneration of the town, with the Great Tapestry of Scotland Visitor Centre set to be the catalyst for this transformation by creating significant economic, social and educational benefits.
“A different approach is being taken forward for Tweedbank with the aim of making it an attractive place to live and work through ambitious new residential and business plans closely connected to the railway.
“While the council cannot delivery all the proposals, the masterplans will aim to encourage the market to invest in both communities, and the Borders as a whole.”
Tom Miers, SBC’s executive member for planning and environment, added: “The Galashiels and Tweedbank masterplans provide options for the future of both communities.
“They include ideas for creating jobs, encouraging inward investment and informing the next stage of the Local Development Plan.
“The next step is for the council to draw on these and other ideas to develop formal plans for Tweedbank in close consultation with the public.”
Both reports are available at SBC’s website.