The long-heralded opening of the £6.7m home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland being built in Galashiels has been put back a year.
The tourist attraction, in Channel Street and next-door High Street, was scheduled to open its doors within months but now won’t welcome its first visitors for about a year and a half.
Issues with tender contracts had already led to the controversial centre’s opening date slipping back from spring of next year to the summer, and it has now been pushed back a whole year to spring 2021, council bosses have conceded.
That hold-up – due to be explained at next Tuesday’s meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s executive committee – will also have an impact on wider regeneration plans lined up for Galashiels as the centre, to be run by Live Borders, has been billed as a catalyst for other moves to boost its economy.
The year-long delay is not expected to bump up the bill for the construction project, originally earmarked for nearby Tweedbank rather than central Galashiels, however.
Confirming that 12-month timetable slippage, a council spokesperson said: “The exciting development, which will help kickstart the regeneration of Galashiels, will open to the public in spring 2021.
“While the building works are expected to be completed in September 2020, the decision has been made to wait until spring 2021 in order to capitalise on the peak tourist season.
“Councillors on the executive committee will also be advised that the £6.7m project, transforming a previously derelict town centre site, remains on budget.”
Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for business and economic development, Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, said: “The Great Tapestry of Scotland will not only create a national destination visitor attraction and significant community facility in the Borders in 2021, but it will also play a key role in the regeneration of Galashiels.
“With the Borders Railway on its doorstep, we also have the prospect of the tapestry attracting thousands of visitors from Edinburgh to discover the wider Borders.
“The council and Live Borders worked in partnership on the Jim Clark Motorsport Museum in Duns, which has already welcomed over 12,000 visitors since it opened this summer, and we will work together again to make sure the time between the building’s completion and opening is used to ensure the facility offers a first-class experience for local people and visitors.”
Stirling-based contractor Ogilvie Construction is creating the centre, with installation of its steel structure now nearing completion and construction of its roof and external walls due to follow soon.
It is predicted that the centre will draw more than 50,000 visitors to Galashiels a year, generating almost £900,000 for the Borders’ economy as well as creating 16 jobs directly and supporting a further 17.
Created by writer Alexander McCall Smith, historian Alistair Moffat and artist Andrew Crummy, the Great Tapestry of Scotland, completed in 2013, tells the country’s story via 160 panels, making it one of the largest artworks of its kind in the world.
Mr Moffat, one of the tapestry’s trustees, said: “The Great Tapestry of Scotland is a national treasure and it is wonderful that it will be seen so wonderfully well in its new centre in the Borders.
“When visitors come north, they will be persuaded to stop rather than keep going to Edinburgh and the Highlands because the whole history of the country they have come to visit will be on show.
“On a local level, the new centre is a great fillip to the regeneration of central Galashiels.
“Like all of the other Border towns, retail has largely departed and is unlikely to come back except in niche offerings.
“Cultural attractions will bring people back to the streets and squares of our towns, and Galashiels will once more be an attractive, buzzy place to be.”