South Scotland

Lowood Estate purchase decision remains 'robust'

Lowood Estate Image copyright Scottish Borders Council
Image caption The council has said the case for purchasing and developing the Lowood Estate remained "robust"

A council has defended a masterplan promising hundreds of jobs - despite a report questioning its viability.

The local authority in the Scottish Borders bought the Lowood Estate near Tweedbank as part of the project in a multi-million pound deal last year.

However, a report has raised "serious doubts as to the deliverability and viability" of the overall masterplan.

But the council said it was satisfied the "vital site" was capable of delivering a major employment boost.

A report into the economic viability of the Tweedbank project - which would see residential and business development - was commissioned by Middlemede Properties, the owners of fishing rights in the area.

'Number of concerns'

The resultant study said the scheme was commercially non-viable, represented over-development of the site and could ultimately create environmental and pollution threats for the River Tweed corridor.

The report was handed to the council in March last year before councillors voted to finalise the deal and purchase the Lowood Estate.

Stuart Bell, who heads the SNP-led opposition group on the council, said he had only seen the study last week and it raised a "number of concerns".

"I was unaware of this report and its conclusions when the decision was taken by Scottish Borders Council to purchase the Lowood Estate," he said.

"I think that many other Borders councillors were similarly in ignorance of it which is worrying given the significance of its conclusions, that the Lowood proposal is over-development and not commercially viable."

'Detailed analysis'

He said he had written to council officers to clarify why the report had not been brought immediately to the attention of councillors.

A council spokesman said the report had been submitted after a public consultation period had ended and there had previously been no opportunity for it to be presented to councillors.

However, he said a report put before them had contained "detailed analysis" which went "significantly beyond the scope" of the study.

He said the council remained satisfied the decision making process for the estate purchase was "robust" and included a "comprehensive review" of all the issues raised in the report.

"We believe this vital site is capable of delivering an estimated 352 jobs, as part of a wider masterplan for Tweedbank which could create over 670 jobs for the Scottish Borders," he added.

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