Adding even more appeal to the Tweed Valley

Plan to convert B-listed Brodie’s Mill building into a mountain bike centre have been revealed. May lead to creation of new Innerliethen bike park.

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Developing Mountain Biking Scotland’s Ed Shoote,: “It’s very early days, but we are working towards identifying a model to create a hub for the mountain bike industry to locate here and grow in Innerleithen.

“It’s too much space for just the mountain bike innovation side of things, so we would look to create it for other indoor activities, such as erecting a climbing wall and perhaps nursery space, because it’s been flagged to us that there’s maybe a lack of childcare facilities in Innerleithen.

“Also gym space, as again this was brought to our attention as something that is needed in the area.

“It’s a really exciting project alongside looking at how we can address the lack of facilities for mountain biking in Innerleithen.

“I know there have been concerns about parking and toilet and shower facilities, so in that same pot of funding we are looking at solutions to make sure Innerleithen is well set up, with infrastructure in place to attract mountain bikers, to not only come and spend money and stay here longer, but also to relocate and work here as well.

“Our goal is to make it the home of mountain biking from Peebles right through to Galashiels. Innerleithen sits at the heart of that which is why it is really exciting for us.

“It’s quite an ambitious plan, but it has been well received through the council. We are hoping to have consultations in the new year.”

The local authority commented: “This project seeks the creation of an exemplar research facility and workspace in the Scottish Borders to support business innovation, production, and controlled testing within the mountain bike sector.

“Alongside this it is proposed to develop a world-class bike park that will permit the real-world testing of products as well as attracting additional mountain bikers and visitors to the area.

“This proposal is focused on Innerleithen and the adjoining forest area, and potentially involves the development and refurbishment of a Listed Building.”

Next step? Public consultation

Views are being sought. A public consultation will be held on 24th January at 7pm in the Innerleithen Memorial Hall, Leithen Road, Innerleithen, EH44 6HZ. During the evening, Select Contracts, consultants in the leisure and adventure industry (based in Whistler, Canada ) and award winning Scottish architects, Oberlanders, will present and capture the communities’ views on the bike park, whilst innovation experts, Urban Foresight, will be consulting on the innovation centre. This research is being funded by Scottish Enterprise.

Following on from a community meeting held in 2017, plans have been progressing towards a vision of how the Tweed Valley and, in particular, Innerleithen, can capitalise further on the growing popularity of the sport. These plans consider sustainable solutions to improve visitor facilities, maintain the trail network and create more local jobs.

An initial business case for the project is one of a number of proposals in the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal proposition that is currently subject to ongoing negotiation with the UK and Scottish governments. The outline business case has been progressed by Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS), a partnership project hosted in Scottish Cycling, Edinburgh Napier University (ENU), Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Borders Council. This group have been consulting and working with local businesses, national agencies and international bike brands to develop the proposals

DMBinS regional mountain bike co-ordinator, Ed Shoote: “The Tweed Valley is already home to some of the best mountain bike riding in the UK and every year its reputation grows. We believe this proposal promotes the area to become the European Capital of Mountain Biking. Following the previous community meeting the message was clear that Innerleithen had fantastic potential to offer a wider range of trails to compliment Glentress – from jump trails to fun family-orientated bike park trails. Whilst the plans are progressing with a good deal of political support, we need to ensure the local community is on board with the ideas and will support the proposals.”

The innovation centre will contain unique facilities that companies have requested including cutting-edge prototyping equipment. The centre will form part of a wider community hub. Early plans for the innovation hub building include additional space provisions for childcare, indoor activities like a climbing wall, additional café space for local businesses to grow into and flexible short-term office space.

Lead academic from the Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland, Professor Geraint Florida-James: “Crucially, the plans not only promote growth in tourism but maximise the impact of the sport for the local community and businesses by creating new jobs and specialist facilities. It builds on the success of Edinburgh Napier University’s Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland project at Glentress, which to date, has engaged with over 200 businesses.”

Select Contracts CEO, Chris Sutton, who will be in attendance at the meeting said, “We were extremely pleased to be appointed as consultants for this downhill bike park project. We see Innerleithen as one of the best locations for a bike park in the UK and Europe. We are looking forward to sharing our work on this project to-date and getting local community feedback.”

The feedback from this consultation meeting will contribute towards a full business case, which will be developed by both organisations of expert consultants, Select Contracts and Urban Foresight. This will be used to help progress the funding application process under public sector programmes including the Borderlands Growth Deal, alongside helping to attract potential private investors.