THE first stage of work on the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor attraction is set to commence in Galashiels.

Stirling-based Ogilvie Construction has been appointed to build the landmark facility for the attraction, which tells the story of Scotland through one of the world’s largest tapestries created by 1,000 people from across the country.

The announcement represents a significant delay in construction commencing, with project leaders previously hoping to begin work in October 2018.

Work at the site is expected to commence in the coming weeks with the council hoping the new building, designed by leading architectural practice Page/Park, will transform Galashiels town centre.

The visitor centre will have a wide range of interactive displays and activities as well as exhibitions, events and educational facilities and is part of a broader plan to regenerate Galashiels.

The local authority has secured £2.5 million from the Scottish government's Borders Railway Blueprint towards the £6.7 million centre.

The project has faced significant opposition - last month we reported that an online poll found 97 percent of Borderers were opposed to the Great Tapestry of Scotland plans for Galashiels.

Councillor Mark Rowley, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Business and Economic Development, remains optimistic about the project. He said: “This is a hugely exciting time for Galashiels and the Scottish Borders.

“I am delighted we now have an experienced and trusted contractor in place to take forward the building of this nationally significant attraction, with the artist impressions indicating it will be a stunning piece of architecture in Galashiels town centre.

“Jobs will be created during construction of the facility alongside a wide range of social, economic and educational benefits once the building opens to the public.

“Heritage and culture experts predict the centre will attract over 50,000 people to Galashiels each year once opened, as well as create 16 new jobs at the facility.

“In addition, almost £900,000 of extra spending per year is predicted for the local economy, providing 12,000 extra visits to complementary attractions, supporting a further 17 jobs.

“The Tapestry is the first stage of a wider masterplan to regenerate Galashiels, which is starting to see encouraging developments such as the expansion of local estate agents Cullen Kilshaw into the Transport Interchange and positive community feedback on the Coulter’s Candy sculpture.

“With the Jim Clark Museum set to open this year, a £1.3million Hawick Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme being announced this month and continued investment in key Scottish Borders events, there are more and more reasons for people to come to the Scottish Borders.”

Scottish Borders Council’s Chief Executive, Tracey Logan, said: “The Tapestry project partners have been working collaboratively to get to this stage and it is excellent to reach this milestone.

“While the newly appointed construction team makes plans to start in the coming weeks, we will have a number of tourism professionals from the Live Borders’ team attending VisitScotland’s premier business to business travel trade event Expo this week.”

Alistair Moffat, a Tapestry trustee, hopes the visitor attraction will help reinvigorate central Galashiels. He said: “The Great Tapestry of Scotland is an object not only of great beauty and power, it will also act as an engine for renewal.

“As large-scale retail moves to the periphery of towns and cities, it is magnetic cultural attractions like the Tapestry that will bring back life to the centres of these beautiful places.

“The huge success of the V&A in Dundee, attracting 500,000 visitors in six months, doubling estimates, is only the latest example of how well this strategy works.”