A £1.9M rural development is set to breathe new life into rural Ettrick Valley.
Work began in Kirkhope, just outside Ettrickbridge, last spring to convert a Victorian corn mill, farmhouse and paddock into family homes and commercial workshops.
And the final touches are being completed before the tenants move in this summer.
The Ettrick and Yarrow Community Development Company (EYCDC) project to create five rental homes and seven workspaces will not only bring much needed jobs to the valley, but will also increase the number of people attending the local primary school.
Andy Wright, who is one of the directors of the EYCDC, said: “It’s great to see this foundation coming back to life.
“As a community development company, we wanted to bring economic and social regeneration to the valleys, and we identified a real need for affordable housing as well as light industrial units to encourage people to stay and work here.
“We hope that the five homes will attract young families, which will bring additional children to both the nursery and the primary school in the village.
“We are delighted to see how this has progressed over the past year and we are excited to welcome our first tenants in the months ahead.”
Rental application forms for the two- and three-bedroom eco-friendly family homes will be available next month.
And the community development company has already engaged with potential small businesses, including a weaver and a costume rental business, interested in neighboring units.
Since the project was first mooted in 2018, the EYCDC has received financial support from South of Scotland Enterprise, Scottish Borders Council, Scottish Government and Scottish and Southern Energy.
The two-hectare site was purchased from Buccleuch Estates in June 2020, with workers arriving on site the following March.
While the project will have long-term benefits for the region, the construction phase has already resulted in the creation of 11 jobs.
And almost all materials and accessories were sourced locally.
Vicky Davidson, EYCDC Project Manager, added: “We felt it was important to support local businesses during the construction works.
“This is truly a community project that will have a positive impact on the valleys for many years to come.
All properties have been converted or newly built to the highest environmental standards.
And the planned landscaping will help blend the new buildings and Victorian buildings into the picturesque surroundings.
The South of Scotland Enterprise was Kirkhope Steading’s largest funder with around £850,000 in investment.
The president of the economic and community development agency, Professor Russel Griggs, gave an overview of the project last week.
He said: “We are delighted to support any project that can help a rural community become more sustainable – not just economically, but in all aspects that make a community run better.
“This transformational development in Kirkhope Steading will provide much needed affordable housing and workspaces in the Ettrick Valley.
“This will help attract more people of working age to the area, which will provide many benefits, including support for the local primary school.
“We are particularly pleased to support the sustainability element of this project, adding resilience to this rural area and supporting SOSE’s aim to see South Scotland leading the way in the journey to Net Zero. .”
The development was not without hitches, as undetected problems with one of the roofs emerged during the initial conversion work.
The recent rise in material costs has also caused some rebalancing in the books.
But the Scottish Borders Council and the Scottish Government’s Rural Housing Fund have both stepped in with additional funding to prevent the EYCDC from having to increase its borrowing.
The local authority has donated an additional £120,000 from its Second Homes Council tax revenue to the Kirkhope project.
Council leader Mark Rowley said: “The Second Homes Council tax fund is designed to help housing projects like this in Ettrickbridge and increase the opportunity for affordable housing delivery in the area.
“This development will make a big difference for a small community, with new affordable family homes and commercial units that will breathe new life into this part of the valley.”
Application forms for family homes will be available on the Ettrick and Yarrow Community Development Company website from next month.
Further details on hiring any of the workspaces are available by contacting [email protected]