Tweedbank innovation park plans approved
Scottish Borders Council has already identified capital funds for the project, which will see the development and improvement of council-owned land.
It is proposed that funding from the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal is finalised for the project, with additional support from Scottish Enterprise and the Borders Railway Blueprint group to be confirmed.
Councillors also unanimously agreed to the adoption of a Simplified Planning Zone (SPZ) for Tweedbank which enables development to take place without the need for planning consent, provided it complies with development parameters and conditions. This will make the location more attractive for businesses considering relocating to the Borders and the development of premises quicker.
An independent report in 2013 identified that commercial office space near the Borders Railway terminus could create up to 350 new jobs, and as a result a project to develop new business infrastructure in Tweedbank was included in the Borders Railway Blueprint document to build on the potential of the railway itself.
Currently just one high quality modern office premise is immediately available in the central Borders, and there is no modern manufacturing space available. The council is therefore seeking to take a lead role in developing new employment infrastructure to attract inward investment, new jobs to the area, and allow existing local businesses to expand.
Councillor Mark Rowley, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for business and economic development, said: “There is an exciting opportunity for the council to work with key partners to develop high quality office and manufacturing facilities in Tweedbank which will provide an exceptional opportunity for businesses to start, grow and move here. This in an attractive location with excellent transport links, and which benefits from Assisted Area Status, which means businesses can receive grants for eligible business development.
“Following today’s meeting, the council will now undertake detailed business cases for the projects and aim to get support from the Borders Railway Blueprint group and Scottish Enterprise to progress these developments, in addition to finalising funds available through the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.
“These developments would not only provide new business opportunities but would set the scene for more extensive private sector investment in the vicinity and kick-start the development of an innovation park which would provide an economic hub and many hundreds of new jobs for the area.
“By building on the success of the Borders Railway and maximising its positive impact on the local economy we can strengthen the case for expansion of the railway to Hawick and beyond, and as such this project is not only important for the central Borders but the wider area too.”
On the Simplified Planning Zone agreement, Councillor Tom Miers, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for planning and environment, said: “The SPZ will make it faster and easier for inward investors to develop their business in the innovation park. With a package of other measures the innovation park is becoming a very attractive prospect for businesses looking to relocate or grow.
“In all, these measures are in line with the council’s priorities to encourage investment and jobs across the Borders with a flexible and business friendly approach to planning and other areas of policy.”
As part of the Borders Railway Blueprint programme, masterplans for Galashiels and Tweedbank are in the process of being created.
These will set out a medium to long term strategy for both communities through the allocation of spaces for commercial, retail, residential and community facilities, as well as roads and utilities.
This will allow the Local Development Plan to be updated and encourage investors to understand the opportunities available in both communities. A series of local engagement events have already taken place.