Councillor hits out at bid for national park

Michelle Ballantyne (Con)

Michelle Ballantyne (Con)

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Selkirk could be billed as the gateway to a new Borders National Park if a bid by the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland comes to fruition.

That, at least, is the claim being made by Jane Bower, vice-chairperson of the association and a Newcastleton area resident, and she wrote to Selkirk Community Council asking for its support.

Her plea was read out by chairman Alistair Patullo at Monday night’s meeting.

The campaign to make a vast swathe of the Borders – taking in Newcastleton to the south and skirting the towns of Hawick, Selkirk and Galashiels, but including Melrose, Newtown St Boswells, Kelso and Jedburgh – was launched last year, but it has sparked a polarising debate.

Selkirkshire councillor Michelle Ballantyne made her feelings clear on it on Monday.

She said: “I wouldn’t support it. It would cause way too many problems.

“National parks have all sorts of costs, and there are huge connotations for local councils. There are restrictions on planning and development.

“I don’t think we need it, and I can’t see what benefit it would be. I don’t think becoming a national park is a way to improve the Borders.

“It’s just not practical or appropriate. If you had it, it wouldn’t be long before you wished you hadn’t.”

However, Denholm community councillor Rob Armstrong remains a strong supporter of the campaign.

He said: “There is now incredible support for national park status. The association is at scoping stage, holding talks at community councils, and has created a dedicated website so people can find out

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more about a proposed park.

“There are huge benefits to the Borders area if it were granted National Park status, the main ones being a badly-needed boost to the economy via increased tourism to the Borders and increased investment by companies wanting to invest in the area due to its recognition as an area of outstanding beauty.

“Studies of other parks have proved this.

“Also, badly-needed protection will be given to an extremely beautiful area heavily reliant on tourism.

“This would ensure sympathetic development practices, using more indigenous materials and thoughtful design to new developments.

“In short, a National Park status would be about preservation and growth.”

For more information, visit www.borders-national-park.scot