The results of a public consultation to help revitalise the Ettrick and Yarrow Valleys will be open to view in the Yarrowford Hall on September 3, between 3pm-7pm, and at www.sup.org.uk
The Community Development Plan, compiled by the Southern Upland Partnership (SUP), targeted 378 homes in the five communities of Ettrick, Ettrickbridge, Yarrow, Bowhill and Philiphaugh, and collected data from 178 which completed the questionnaires.
While 13 per cent of respondents, whose ages ranged from pre-school to retired over-75s, disliked ‘nothing’ about living in the valleys, 11 per cent lamented ‘a lack of bus service’, 10 per cent ‘a lack of shops’, 10 per cent ‘dangerous roads’, and eight per cent the ‘lack of broadband coverage’.
What people liked most about living in the valleys, however, was the ‘peace and quiet’ (38 per cent), the ‘scenery and outdoors’ (35 per cent), and the ‘sense of community and friendly neighbours’ (18 per cent).
The research revealed a strong demand for residency in the area – 28 per cent of respondents know people who would like to live in the valleys – but of the 38 surveyed Selkirk High School pupils who live in the valleys, just under half (45 per cent) said they wouldn’t stay in the valleys after school or university, while only 30 per cent said they would.
Listing incentives needed to stay, their top answers were: “jobs, cheaper travel, affordable homes, faster technology and shops”. Eighty-seven per cent would like a Saturday bus.
Thirty-eight per cent of respondents work in the valleys, with local businesses employing 41 people.
Identified business ‘weaknesses’ include: a ‘lack of young people and entrepreneurs’ and a ‘lack of local jobs’.
Thirty-one per cent of those surveyed would like to start a business or be part of a co-operative, and 39 per cent would be interested in sharing their skills and knowledge.
“The sheer range of skills and talent in the valleys is amazing,” reported the SUP’s Pip Tabor. “There’s great potential for the community, if only we could tap in to it.”
Twenty-one land owners would also be willing to make land available for the community.
Community ‘threats’ include: ‘an aging and decling population’, ‘afforestation’, ‘rising fuel costs’, ‘loss of local businesses and jobs’, ‘houses being used as holiday and second homes’, and ‘not having the same access to services as others, i.e. transport, communications (broadband and mobiles), loss of community assets (shop, pub, school), and road conditions’.
But the findings also give hope for the future, listing opportunities such as: ‘using local natural resources to create renewable energy’; ‘peace and quiet and scenery could be used to market the area, develop nature-based tourism’ or ‘encourage adventure sports on St Mary’s Loch and the river systems’; and the ‘richness of culture and history could be used to market the area or be the basis of events.’
It was found that 668 bed spaces are available to tourists through camping, caravan, cottage, B&B, hotel and youth hostel accommodation.
“There was an assumption before that there wasn’t enough accommodation in the area to host a big event,” said Mr Tabor.
“Now we know that’s not true.”
Other ‘underused assets’ included: St Mary’s Loch, Ettrick Marshes, the Southern Upland Way, cycling routes, and forests.
More opportunities include: ‘encouraging forestry companies to employ local labour’, ‘under-used buildings – village halls etc. – could be better used’, a ‘skills audit to see what knowledge and skills are in the local area’, and ‘gathering market research on what would they need to move into the area’.
“It’s now up to local people to carry on the Community Development Plan if they wish,” said Mr Tabor.
“The project runs out of Leader funding in March next year, so we need people to keep things moving, or else everything will just go back to sleep.”