Selkirk County Planning in the 1960s and 1970s

The Quinquennial Review of the Selkirkshire County Development Plan was submitted to the Secretary of State in October 1964.  The policy of the review was “To bring to a halt, in the first instance, the continual and steady depopulation of the county and then by the introduction and provision of facilities to encourage new industries to develop within the burghs, and the existing industries to modernise and expand, in order to raise the population in a reasonable and realistic figure necessary to create a thriving industrial and commercial community within a balanced environment providing adequate housing and a full range of social, commercial and recreational facilities and at the same instance to protect the amenity and character of the area from despoilment”.

During the preparation of the Quinquennial Review, there was little fore-warning of the future downturn in the textiles industry in the Scottish Borders.  Indeed, there was a shortage of female labour, prompting efforts to attract male-employing industries to the area and build substantial rented (local authority) housing to attract and accommodate incoming workers.  The Galashiels Town Map proposed additional land for industry at Langhaugh and Netherdale, and additional housing in a number of locations, including Buckholm Corner, Blynlee, Mossilee/Hollybush, Wester and Easter Langlee, and Boleside.  The Selkirk Town Map allocated further industrial land alongside the A7 at Dunsdalehaugh, and land for housing at Fairfield, Sentry Knowe and the Haining (on the Green).  In relation to the A7 trunk road, the Quinquennial Review retained the proposal for a Selkirk By-pass and improvements both south and north of Selkirk, including a new road along the former Selkirk Branch railway line and new bridge over the Tweed.  In Galashiels, the route of the A7, from a proposed roundabout at Sunningdale, followed a line along Abbotsford Road, Albert Place and Bank Street, through property to the rear of High Street and Island Street to Wilderhaugh and a roundabout on Wood Street, above Leabrae, and then across a viaduct over the railway and the Gala Water to Buckholm Corner.  The Quinquennial Review was approved by the Secretary of State in January 1968.

During the early 1960s, the traditional industries continued to flourish.  In 1961, Yarrow Spinners extended their operation with the erection of a spinning mill in Selkirk.  Gardiners also expanded with the erection of a new tweed mill in Selkirk.  In 1966, Gardiners undertook further extensions, as did Laidlaw & Fairgrieve in Galashiels.  However, by the late 1960s, the textile sector began to shed labour and to aid the attraction of industry to the region, the Peebles, Roxburgh and Selkirk Joint Planning Advisory Committee was set up in December 1969 to promote the Central Borders.  A Development Office was established and a Development Officer, Alistair Bilton, was appointed.  Nursery factory units were built in Galashiels and Selkirk.  About this time, two entrepreneurs, Robert Currie, a process engraver in the printing industry, and Kenneth Mill, an electronics engineer, started up the first electronics company, Currie & Mill, manufacturing PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) in a modest building on the High Street in Galashiels.  After two years together, they split up, Kenneth Mill to found BEPI Electronics, which became established at Galabank Mill on Wilderhaugh.  Currie & Mill would become Exacta Circuits and establish a factory at Dunsdalehaugh in Selkirk.  It was from these two companies that many of the Borders electronic companies of the 1970s were descended; such as MEPD Met-Etch in Selkirk and Keltek in Kelso.  A broad range of other industries was also established at this time: Sprague (Electric) and Valerie Louthan (knitwear) at Netherdale, Galashiels; R.P. Adam (Arpal) initially at Netherdale, Galashiels and then Selkirk; Pye Electronics at Wilderhaugh, Galashiels.  In 1970, textile designer, Bernat Klein built his, award winning, design studio at High Sunderland, near Selkirk.

Whilst the Quinquennial Review of the Development Plan was being prepared, amendments were made to the existing development plan to allow a range of developments to proceed.  The first amendment, in 1963, related to the development of a 7 acre site at Fairfield in Selkirk for local authority housing.  Other amendments followed in the 1960s, including the allocation of playing fields at Netherdale, Galashiels for industry; the new bus station on Stirling Street in Galashiels; the redevelopment of Galashiels Market Square; new housing at Clovenfords; Wester and Easter Langlee, Galashiels; Sentry Knowe, Selkirk and within Gala Policies.  Housing redevelopment was concentrated in the Greenbank Street/Croft Street, Gala Park and Halliburton Place/Magdala Terrace areas of Galashiels.  A number of petrol filling stations were constructed in Galashiels.  TV masts were erected at Dryden, Ashkirk and Lindean, near Selkirk, to serve BBC and ITV respectively in the 1960s.  In 1970, planning permission was granted for Galashiels’ first supermarket, Coopers Finefare in Channel Street.  New swimming pools were built in Galashiels and Selkirk.

Other developments of note during this time include: the contentious cladding of the Capitol Cinema in Galashiels in 1971 [originally, the Playhouse when built in 1922, and the Capitol from 1959, the cinema was revamped with a bingo hall, discotheque, bar and restaurant and re-named the Kingsway in 1971; in 1995 it was sub-divided into four cinemas and renamed the Pavilion]; and the conversion of Philipburn House, Selkirk into an award winning hotel.  One of the last developments to be proposed prior to local government re-organisation in 1975 was the redevelopment of Galashiels Station Yard for industry and parking combined with a landscaped footpath corridor along the length of the railway line between Torwoodlee at the north-western boundary of the town and Tweedbank.  This proposal would be approved and implemented by the new Borders Regional council.

In response to the Central Borders Plan of 1968, the Galashiels Technical Working Party was established in 1970 with representatives from Selkirkshire County Council and Galashiels Town Council, the Scottish Development Department and Roxburgh and Berwickshire County Planning Departments to examine the growth potential of Galashiels.  Essentially, this working party was tasked with identifying the threshold capacity of the town rather than accommodate the population increase projected by the Central Borders Plan.  To some, it seemed that this was an opportunity to put forward an argument for development within Galashiels rather than at Tweedbank.  But the die had already been cast [the Secretary of State approved the Darnick (Tweedbank) Amendment to the Roxburgh County Development Plan in January 1968].

The Galashiels Technical Working Party examined the feasibility of alternative routes for the A7 through the town [neither the county council nor the town council were over-enthusiastic, about the route that had been imposed by the Scottish Development Department].  One serious alternative was to route the A7 along the now disused railway line from the northern boundary of the burgh to a point east of the town centre, joining Abbotsford Road near its junction with Tweed Road.  Alternatively, the route could continue along the railway line to Netherdale and, utilising the Selkirk Branch line, link with the A7 at Netherbarns.  It would also be possible to link this road with the Melrose Road via Winston Road or continue over the Tweed, utilising the railway bridge, through Tweedbank to Darnick [as an alternative to the route proposed in the Roxburgh County Council Darnick (Tweedbank) amendment to the development plan].  After lengthy consideration, the working party [reluctantly] came to the conclusion that there was no case for altering the already agreed route for the A7, which connected with the proposed Galafoot Bridge and route to Darnick.  However, the working party did consider that a new link road should be constructed along the railway line between Winston Road and Station Brae to relieve local traffic on the Melrose Road, a road which could be continued along Ladhope Vale to High Buckholmside (the A7).

The technical working party examined a number of housing sites stretching from Buckholm Corner in the north-west to the Langshaw Road in the south-east, including major sites at Mossilee and Hollybush, Gala Policies and Netherbarns.  Agreement was reached that future housing in Galashiels, in the period up to 1983 (the ten year period after publication of the report) should be concentrated in the Mossilee/Hollybush area with initial development at Kilnknowe on Wood Street.  Gala Policies provided the opportunity for some housing, the area around Gala House being suitable for a recreational park.  As regards industrial land, it was acknowledged that there was considerable scope to generate jobs within existing industrial areas, principally at Netherdale in Galashiels and at Dunsdalehaugh in Selkirk.  The site at Tweedbank would cater for considerable population increase.  Sites at Hollybush and Easter Langlee were identified as possible sites for industry in the longer term.

The Working Party report, published in January 1973 was, to some extent, overtaken by the re-organisation of local government in 1975 but it, nevertheless, formed an important input to the new development plan system of structure and local plans subsequently prepared by the Borders Regional Council.

Author: douglas hope

Over fifty years experience in town and country planning, including twenty-one years with the Borders Regional Council (1975-1996) and twenty years with the Scottish Government as a Reporter for the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals.