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Community | 15th July 2021
 

Full steam ahead for ambitious enterprise

Planners give green light to the conversion of former BFA site

 
 
 

AN EXCITING and unique proposal to convert a disused building in Langholm into a centre for business start-ups, artists’ studios, exhibition venue, retail units and café has been given the go-ahead.

Dumfries and Galloway Council’s planning authority has approved, with conditions, the plan to convert the former Border Fine Arts factory into a multi-purpose social enterprise and visitor centre.

The building is now owned by the Stevenson Trust which also has plans for a micro-brewery / distillery and a bakery.

It is estimated that it could attract 17,000 visitors a year.

David Stevenson, the trust’s chairman, said: “There’s a few pages of conditions attached to the planning permission but, assuming they can be dealt with, we would hope to make a start on site in the late autumn.

“It’s difficult to be specific about timing but I think it will take about 12 months on site before we’ll be ready to open.

“On that basis and assuming Mr Covid behaves himself, we would aim to open in autumn 2022. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

The council’s environmental health officer objected to the proposal.

His opinion was that, should the development be permitted, noise complaints from the residents of existing houses could be justified under the Environmental Protection Act because of the close proximity of the development to houses and the potential scope of operation of the bakery and micro-brewery.

The objection would stand unless a noise assessment was undertaken by a suitably competent person to confirm the rated noise level at the existing residential properties from the proposed development would not exceed the existing background noise as such to cause an adverse or significantly adverse impact.

Should noise be predicted to cause an adverse or significantly adverse impact, the consultant’s report should propose a scheme for noise attenuation for written approval.

However, the planning officer’s report said it was unlikely that the development would result in a significant loss of residential amenity. The environmental health officer’s response was noted but, given previously established uses, it is not considered that a noise impact assessment would be a reasonable request in relation to this application.

Renamed Auld Langholm Station because it’s on the original site of the former station, this community regeneration project will be a catalyst for the economic revival of the town and its High Street.

The retail units will have a focus on Made in Scotland and particularly southern Scotland products.

The lay-out is designed to enable visitors to see the artists and artisans at work, for business to be transacted and for craft workers to give demonstrations of their skills.

Earlier this year, when planning permission was applied for, David said: “We went up a few blind alleys before deciding to create something unique, an opportunity to create business start-ups and job opportunities in affordable spaces as an attraction which will bring visitors all year round and be an asset to the quality of life of Langholm folk.

“The BFA buildings were built on the site of Langholm railway station so we decided to create Auld Langholm Station, give the development a railway theme and take advantage of the extensive site to celebrate the heritage and lifestyle of Langholm and the Esk Valley.
“There will be exhibitions, markets, demonstrations, talks and workshops and we plan to have a micro-brewer, artisan baker, handloom weaver, garment maker, potter, artists and craftworkers.

“There will be speciality retailing with a focus on products made in Scotland and even a canine café for the dog walkers who enjoy a visit to Langholm.”
Considerable research was done over the two years, including a mixture of studying traffic flows on the main roads into Scotland and discussing business start-ups, job creation and community regeneration with local and national organisations.

David said: “We have a lot of space to fill and hope more than a dozen small businesses will base themselves in Auld Langholm Station.”

 
 
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