The town of Peebles has been named the most creative place of its size in Scotland and the best in Scotland for its range of independent shops and “home town identity.”
Every year, thousands of day trippers are attracted to its delightful Victorian high street. Its schools are full, as are two local business parks, and homes in the area are very sought after.
And yet – there is a growing feeling that the town’s very attractiveness is what is stifling change and innovative development.
Says Crick Carleton of Peebles Community Trust:
“The main focus of economic activity here takes place in the conservation area of the high street where most of our day trippers are to be found.
“In order to increase opportunities for entrepreneurs and employment, we need to come up with ideas to spread footfall by encouraging visitors to stray outside that core area.
“While it’s true that Peebles has an above-average number of high income households, there is also poverty. We have a food bank and many local people are unemployed or earning low wages.
“Because an increasing number of residents commute to work from Peebles, it’s easy to ignore the need to develop and grow our own local economy.
“Plenty of people want to move here and developers would love to build another 1000 houses in the area. But where are the schools that would be needed? Where are the jobs?
“We need to create opportunities for employment in the town and not assume that people who live here will work elsewhere.”
To that end, the Trust is currently working on a plan to buy a private estate situated in the centre of the town which has been on the market for several years, priced at £2.5 million. It comprises a main house and steading plus 17 acres of garden and woodland and could provide multiple opportunities for green tourism and local employment.
There are also two substantial shop premises in the town centre which have been lying empty for several years and, with cooperation from the owners, could enhance and extend the town’s commercial core and create jobs.
To help take their plans forward, The Peebles Community Trust decided to get involved in the Scotland Can Do Innovation Challenge.
“The workshop in Edinburgh was very rewarding in all sorts of ways” says Crick. “Hearing and sharing the experiences of others in a similar situation to ours was hugely reassuring and a source of information and ideas. We’re looking forward to future workshops.”
The Peebles Community Trust is currently waiting to hear the results of their bid for the estate. They have indicated their interest in buying the whole estate but have put in bid prices for the grounds and steading only.
For more information about the Trust visit their website www.peeblescommunity.org