Borders Gateway: Local figures react to Premier Inn news

REPRESENTATIVES of the Galashiels area have been giving their reaction to the news that Premier Inn has pulled out of the Borders Gateway project.

A 71-bedroom hotel had been part of plans for the multi-million pound Tweedbank development.

However, last week the Border Telegraph revealed that Premier Inn had walked away from the project – although the chain still sees Galashiels as “a target location”.

A number of local figures have expressed their views on the announcement.

John Lamont – Conservative MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

“Obviously it is disappointing that the Premier Inn has decided to walk away from what could have been a positive development for Borders tourism. However, I do know that there were a lot of concerns locally about its effect on existing accommodation providers. Of course, the pandemic has also vastly altered many companies’ plans for expansion.

“It is good news that Lidl have said they will create 30 jobs at the Borders Gateway development by opening a store there.”

Christine Grahame – SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale

“When these plans were first announced in 2018, I was really pleased to see Premier Inn considering opening in the Borders but I had real concerns about the choice of site. I raised this with Premier Inn and the council at the time, as I felt that siting the hotel at what is in effect an out of town retail park at Tweedbank would not support local businesses and, given the proposed provision of a coffee shop and food store at the development as well, would only serve to further dissuade guests from making the trip into Galashiels town centre.

“The pandemic has brought into even sharper relief the need to support our town centre and, particularly with the opening of the Great Tapestry of Scotland, I sincerely hope Premier Inn will take forward plans in the Borders and I am pleased they are now looking for a site in Galashiels as a more viable option rather than withdrawing completely.”

Sandy Aitchison – Independent councillor for Galashiels and District

“Obviously the decision of Premier Inn to pull out of the Tweedbank hotel project is a disappointment. I think a large part of that type of hotel group’s business is from the mobility of the workforce and the uncertainty of the future changes to that mobility has affected their decision. That is a decision for their management to take based on their projections.

“Personally I think they may have missed a trick as more and more people are discovering that the Borders is on a pathway to recovery in so many ways. The council’s ambition for the future with the City Deal, Borderlands and levelling up finance coming into the Borders, is a strong weapon to ensure that our future is bright. The Borders is a great place to live, work, play and visit. More people are now seeing that fact. This means a bright future for everybody, including hoteliers.”

Harry Scott – Independent councillor for Galashiels and District

“I was very disappointed to hear that Premier Inn had withdrawn from the Tweedbank site after what appeared to be a very promising beginning. Not only would it have created jobs on site, but could have offered career progression to our young people and others through other disciplines and specialisms which a large company like Whitbread can offer.

“I have read that, like many companies in the hospitality sector, Whitbread has suffered quite badly financially because of COVID-19, but with better times ahead, hopefully, the company may reassess the proposition and establish a presence somewhere in the Galashiels area.”

Euan Jardine – Conservative councillor for Galashiels and District

“It was disappointing to hear the news that Premier Inn had pulled out of Tweedbank as it was a great opportunity for the region. However, that site will now be home to five new industrial units instead of the hotel which will create up to 100 jobs. A Lidl supermarket has also been confirmed in the same development.

“I am also very encouraged that Premier Inn have stated that they are still interested in coming to Galashiels, so we must continue to work with them in finding a suitable site. Galashiels and the Borders as a whole is evolving into a national and international tourist destination and we need the facilities to support that.”

Andy Anderson – SNP councillor for Galashiels and District

“It is disappointing to see any large business walk away from a project in the Borders, especially when the original plans raised some controversy. However, as Premier Inns have expressed an interest in locating in Galashiels, this may not be a complete loss and could turn out to be Galashiels’ gain – something that the town has been crying out for. I hope that Premier Inn will engage with SBC, elected members and developers to explore these possibilities.

“I note that Manor Place Developments already have new proposals to make use of their site and are hoping to bring another major business to the central Borders alongside industrial units, which are possibly more appropriate to their site.”

David Parker – Independent councillor for Melrose and Leaderdale, and council convener

“Due to the pandemic, the current business climate has been difficult for everyone and I’m not surprised that Manor Place Developments have had to adjust their Tweedbank proposals in response to the economic climate. The new proposals will still represent a significant investment in Tweedbank and the Scottish Borders and will bring jobs to the local area. I’m sure everyone will welcome the new investment and will look pragmatically at the new proposals in light of the current economic backdrop.”

Premier Inn

A spokesperson told us: “The contract we agreed with our development partner has now expired and having re-appraised the proposed 71-bedroom hotel in the current economic climate, it is currently unviable for [owner] Whitbread. Galashiels continues to be a target location for Premier Inn and we remain on the look-out for suitable sites in the town.”

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