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News | 24th June 2021

Langholm misses out on major investment

Town comes too low on index of need to qualify for funding


LANGHOLM has missed out on a major investment in towns in the region but could be considered for support in the future.

Four towns Gretna, Kirkconnel, Wigtown and Stranraer have been chosen for the Borderlands Place Programme, an integral part of the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal.

An index of need was used to calculate which of the 18 towns eligible for inclusion would go forward this year.

It was initially drawn up in 2019 but was revised this year to take into account the impact from the pandemic.

Langholm was originally scored 70, rising to 98. This put it on the same score as Annan but behind Moffat and Whithorn as well as the four chosen towns.

Langholm’s population was set at 1,475 in 2019 and the E&L Advertiser queried this figure, believing it to be too low.

A council spokesperson replied: “The town centre index used in this analysis reflects the data zones published by the Scottish government.

“Data zones reflect small geographic areas and are used to report statistical information used by the government, including the important aspects of the areas such as population, employment and housing.

“These published data zones do not align exactly with settlement boundaries and this exercise focuses on town centres.”

Denis Male, Langholm Alliance chairman, while disagreeing with the population figure, said there was no doubt that places, like Kirkconnel, needed investment but the council had spent large amounts of money there, as it had in Stranraer.

Gretna was expanding and building massive housing schemes.

He added: “We have a community action plan and have staff in place from South of Scotland Enterprise.

“SURF was sent here because the council thought Langholm was a place in need.

“It could be this east-west divide in which Langholm is seen out on a limb.

“This raises issues such as the importance of bringing the Borders Railway through here to Carlisle and getting other infrastructure right, like the A7 and maybe building a bypass.

“There are so many things which need to be looked at around Langholm: its accessibility, timber traffic and other HGVs coming through the town. We need whatever help we can be given.

“We must keep shouting so they remember we are still here.”

Of the £50m allocated to all five local authority partners, £12.75m is indicatively earmarked for towns in Dumfries and Galloway.

The council will provide another £1.25m during the 10-year programme.

The purpose of the Borderlands Place Programme is to financially support towns and town centres to become more economically resilient by working with communities and making the most of the town’s cultural and heritage assets.

By doing so, existing businesses will be safeguarded and new ones attracted, the population sustained with more people of working age, job opportunities improved and more visitors spending time and money in the towns.

The full council will receive a report today on the progress made on the Place Programme and asked to agree to the process to identify the initial towns to go forward.

The remaining towns are not excluded from submitting Borderlands projects in the future and projects, which are ineligible for this funding, may be submitted for alternative funding sources from the Scottish and UK governments, creating a pipeline of projects to attract future investment.

Council leader Elaine Murray said: “Our towns have great potential but, in many cases, the activities which used to sustain their economies are no longer able to do so.

“This programme gives them the opportunity to be repurposed and reinvented using the knowledge of their communities and working with them to find solutions.

“Importantly, it’s not the only game in town. Other funding sources are increasingly becoming available and we want to develop projects in our region which can attract investment.”

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