CAMPAIGNERS have prevented a village-centre field being turned into a housing development.

And the Lilliesleaf Community Development group have announced ambitious plans to turn the land into a village green.

The site adjacent to the main street had been earmarked for houses and was due to go to auction in the coming months.

But after securing the required £185,000 from the Scottish Land Fund the land has now been bought for the community.

Carolyn Riddell-Carre, chair of Lilliesleaf, Ashkirk and Midlem Community Council, is delighted with the purchase.

She said: "Earlier in the autumn we discovered that the field was due to be auctioned.

"We got in touch with the Scottish Land Fund, and carried out a survey in October to find out how people thought the land should be used.

"What people wanted most was a village green, followed by some wildlife planting and a bit of extra parking.

"The Lilliesleaf Development Company members who took this forward worked like Trojans."

Former Galashiels building firm Murray and Burrell had owned the site since 1990 and, before going out of business, had secured permission to build 16 houses on the land.

The sale of the site with permission was due to be concluded at auction over the winter.

But villager Andrew Illius negotiated the sale of the site for the Lilliesleaf group, while David Knight of the Scottish Land Fund worked outwith hours to make sure the funding bid went through on time.

Ms Riddell-Carre added: "This purchase has brought out the best in so many people, and the Lilliesleaf Development Company is led by a brilliant team."

It is now hoped that the new Lilliesleaf Green will be home to a wildlife garden, an orchard, raised herb and vegetable beds, all-weather pathways and a children’s off road bike track.

There are also plans to create a level area for five-a-side football, bowls, tennis and other sports, as well a new layby for parking.

Well-known local artist Rob Hain, who is chairman of the Lilliesleaf Community Development group.

He told us: "We are ecstatic and can’t wait to get started! We faced the daunting task of setting up a new company and making an extremely detailed application in a matter of weeks - rather than months – to try to stop this field going to auction.

"The field is in a plum location in the heart of the village, between the two pubs, and close to both the primary school and village hall, so everyone stands to benefit."

The news has been welcomed as far away as the Scottish Parliament.

Land Reform secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: "This is great news for Lilliesleaf – and another good example of the Scottish Government enabling a community to improve facilities, and bring to life a variety of projects for the benefit of local people.

"We believe that through community ownership we can make Scotland’s land and communities stronger, more resilient, and more sustainable, and we are doing everything possible to encourage more communities to get involved."

The volunteers behind the group will take on much of the planning work for the new village green.

Three special-interest groups - for the gardens, the sports facilities and the infrastructure - for taking parts of the plans forward are being created.

And an appeal will be made for anyone with specialist skills who could help to join them.

Mr Hain added: ‘Volunteers will do much of the work, including most of the planning and detailed design of the projects, soft landscaping and some hard landscaping, and all of the planting.

"We are very fortunate to be able to draw on funds from various sources such as the Langhope Rig Community Fund, and we are already preparing bids to the Borders Forest Trust for tree planting, and Scottish Borders Council’s Localities Funding for the parking layby.’