Borders town sees opportunities in spending a penny

Wednesday May 17th 2023


Innerleithen Toilet Revamp.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Paul Kelly

Visitors to an upwardly mobile Borders town will be spending more than a penny if a bid to convert a former public convenience into a tourism base gets the green light.

The hills and valleys around Innerleithen attract approximately 100,000 bike riders a year – and that number does not include runners, walkers, anglers and others.

They are a mixture of day trippers and multi-day tourists who come to ride bike trails that are now globally renowned.

However, those world-class natural assets are not yet matched by appropriate facilities or infrastructures within the town.

Among the most common complaints from residents and visitors alike is that there is nowhere for outdoor sports enthusiasts to get themselves clean, change their clothes and wash their bikes after a day on the trails.

Consequently many resort to stripping off in residential streets, washing their bikes in local rivers or going elsewhere to find those facilities – taking their money with them.

Now a proposal has been submitted to Scottish Borders Council to transform a redundant toilet block in the town centre into a revenue-generating but not-for-profit bike wash, shower, toilet and changing facility.

A spokesperson for the applicant, the Hub Community Interest Company, said: “We will re-purpose and renovate the disused building adjacent to Hall Street Car Park, currently owned by Scottish Borders Council, to deliver this multi-purpose facility for Innerleithen.

“We plan to deliver a professional pay-as-you-go bike wash facility on the building’s exterior wall, for the use of local and visiting riders.

“We have sourced an environmentally friendly bike wash unit which uses relatively small volumes of low-pressure water, assisted by an in-flow heat pump and air-gun dryer.

“We will renovate the existing block to provide a combination of toilets, showers and changing areas across three cubicles, which will be accessed by new doors with integrated contact-less payment technology.”

A consultation with other community groups in the town has already been launched over the proposals.

The spokesperson added: “Not only is mountain biking here to stay in Innerleithen, if anything we can expect visitor numbers to rise further as the mountain bike world cup puts the Tweed Valley in the global spotlight again this summer and a proposed bike park takes shape over the coming years.

“These are major developments for our town and they bring significant opportunities, but we need local infrastructure to keep pace and new facilities like those proposed here are now essential.

“Not only does this proposed facility represent a commercial opportunity for the community in terms of the revenue it will generate, visitors who are able to get themselves clean and dry are much more likely to use nearby cafés, shops and other businesses, thus boosting our local economy and supporting more employment.”

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