PLANS for a new state-of-the-art mountain bike centre in the Borders have taken a step forward with the signing of the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal.

The cross-border deal, signed today (Thursday, March 18), confirmed millions of pounds of investment for projects across the south of Scotland.

A total of £19 million will go towards a new mountain bike innovation centre in Innerleithen combining tourism and innovation - which the council says is thought to be a “global first”.

The centre is being proposed for the site of the former Caerlee Mill.

Ed Shoote, senior project manager of the mountain bike project, said: “It is fantastic news that the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, including the mountain bike project, is pushing ahead.

“The vision is for the south of Scotland to be recognised as the European leader in mountain biking and this is an important step forward.

“There is still a lot of work to do to realise this vision and we will continue to work with the project partners and the local community to deliver the best project for the region.”

In an online event this morning, the deal was signed by ministers of the UK and Scottish Governments, as well as representatives from five councils - including Scottish Borders Council (SBC).

In addition to the Innerleithen mountain bike innovation centre, plans are afoot to create a Tweed Valley bike park and trail lab.

It is hoped the “ambitious” project will “deliver infrastructure to attract and sustainably manage visitors to the Scottish Borders”.

The mountain bike initiative “is predicted to contribute £141 million in Gross Value Added (GVA) and over 400 new jobs in the south of Scotland”, according to SBC.

The council’s executive member for finance, Mark Rowley, said: “This project is a fantastic example of how projects funded by the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal can deliver multiple benefits, in this case attracting new businesses and jobs to the area and also attracting tourists from across the UK, Europe and beyond, building on the already well-established reputation of the Tweed Valley as one of the world’s top mountain biking destinations.”

The Borderlands deal includes investment for a range of initiatives in the Borders, with £11 million set aside for a tourism project based around the River Tweed.

After witnessing the signing ceremony, Tweeddale MP David Mundell said: "This milestone marks a big opportunity for Tweeddale and shows what can be achieved when our two governments work together, along with the local authorities on both sides of the border. It is a real game-changer.

"I'm particularly pleased that one of the key projects will be to invest £19 million towards the creation of a mountain biking innovation centre at Innerleithen, one of the first of its kind in the world.

"This will fit in well with the already growing interest in mountain bike tourism in the area and should have a positive knock-on effect for some of the many local businesses in the sector which have suffered so badly due to the pandemic lockdowns.

"Funding for a feasibility study into a Borders Railway extension south-west to Carlisle, as well as general infrastructure improvements, should also create opportunities for my constituents, as will developments in close-by Borderlands areas -- Dumfries and Galloway, Cumbria and Northumberland."

The UK Government says the deal will bring “up to £452 million of fresh investment to the Borderlands area”.

A spokesperson added: “The deal is focused on increasing productivity, growing the working age population, and delivering a more inclusive economy.

“It aims to create up to 5,500 jobs and provide a £1.1billion GVA boost to the region’s economy over 10-15 years.”

Borders MP John Lamont said: “The Borderlands is an interdependent region which relies on people and trade on both sides of the border. We share common challenges and this new deal means we will share common opportunity.

“The feasibility study into the completion of the Borders Railway is a very exciting initiative and part of the Borderlands Growth Deal. This £10m investment will be a key part of getting the railway reopened.

“It would be a truly transformational project for Hawick and Newcastleton, connecting them to transport hubs in Edinburgh and Carlisle.

“Our rural area suffers from poor digital connectivity, so it is great to see further investment. Currently, this holds many areas back from realising our full potential.

“I welcome the investment in business growth in our towns and villages like Coldstream which will see new business units built.” 

The full deal can be viewed by clicking this link.