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Central Borders: a plan for expansion

Central Borders: a plan for expansion

A study of growth and regeneration options in the central borders area of Scotland, commissioned by the Scottish Office in 1966. The main issue addressed was how and where to accommodate expected major population growth (25,000 people by 1980). A New Town was proposed to be built at St Boswells. 

The study included careful landscape and townscape analysis of the area (including Galashiels, Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose, Newtown, Peebles, Selkirk, St Boswells). The study recommended that a high priority should be placed on protecting and conserving the natural and built heritage. St Boswells was seen as the only location where major long term growth would be compatible with this objective. 

The study focused mainly on the location of new growth, and how to support it in terms of employment and services. Other issues were alluded to but their significance was underestimate, for example the decline in the traditional textile industries and the imminent closure of the railway (in 1969). The study is an example of the style of planning at the time, which was dominated by physical considerations, with insufficient weight being given to economic and social considerations. It gives an insight into the now all-too-obvious planning failures of the 1960s and 1970s, and how they came about.

How travel has changed

A journey-to-work study was undertaken as part of the baseline work, including interview surveys. It found that 50% of Borderers walked to work. This was based on 16,800 questionnaires returned by employees, 41% of whom were women. The survey found that 75% of employees worked in their home area (hence the high percentage walking). Hawick had the most employment, and attracted workers from outside the town as well.

There was a direct correlation between high numbers living and working in their own (traffic) zone, high bus usage and low car usage. When many employees had to go outside their area to work, the car usage was high, e.g. Melrose had 62% car usage by employees, compared to Hawick with 19%. Melrose had only 10% bus usage compared to Hawick with 23%.

Travel to shop surveys showed that Galashiels and Hawick were the most heavily used. Galashiels had a larger regional attraction than Hawick (35% of shoppers in Galashiels did not live there, compared to only 15% in Hawick.

The borders railway

The two highest users of train journeys were shoppers going to Edinburgh and Galashiels, 144 and 51 journeys respectively on the survey days.

An investigation of the Edinburgh train journeys disclosed the striking fact that 63% of these were from Hawick despite - or perhaps because of - this being the furthest town from Edinburgh.

The railway reopened in 2015 (see link) but terminates at Tweedbank, about 15 miles short of Hawick! There are aspirations to reopen the whole of the Waverley route to Carlise, however.

Client(s)Scottish Office
Team(s)Tim Pharoah as member of Edinburgh University Planning Research Unit. Others included Richard Bigwood (Director), Jurek Kozlowski, James Hope, Gillian Penrose, Ivor Samuels.


Regional planning, Scottish borders, regional growth, new town, borders railway, population growth

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