A £1.9 MILLION rural development is set to breathe fresh life into the rural Ettrick Valley.

Work started at Kirkhope, just outside Ettrickbridge, last spring to convert a Victorian corn mill, farm steading and paddock into family homes and business workshops.

And the final touches are now being completed ahead of tenants moving in this summer.

The Ettrick and Yarrow Community Development Company (EYCDC) project to create five rentable homes and seven workspaces will not only lead to much needed jobs in the valley but also boost numbers at the local primary school.

Andy Wright, who is one of the EYCDC directors, said: “It’s great see this steading being brought back to life.

“As a Community Development Company, we wanted to bring economic and social regeneration to the valleys, and we identified a real need for affordable housing as well as light industrial units to encourage people to stay and work here.

“We hope the five homes will attract young families which will lead to additional children at both the nursery and the primary school in the village.

“We’re delighted to see how this has progressed over the past year and we are excited at the prospect of welcoming our first tenants in the coming months.”

Application forms for tenancies of the eco-friendly two- and three-bedroomed family homes will become available next month.

And the community development company is already engaging with potential small businesses, including a weaver and a costume hire company, interested in the neighbouring units.

Since the project was first mooted in 2018, the EYCDC has received financial support from the South of Scotland Enterprise, Scottish Borders Council, the Scottish Government, and Scottish and Southern Energy.

The two-hectare site was purchased from Buccleuch Estates in June 2020, with workmen arriving on site the following March.

While the project will have long-term benefits for the area, the construction phase has already led to the creation of 11 jobs.

And almost all materials and fittings have been sourced locally.

Vicky Davidson, EYCDC project manager, added: “We felt it was important to support local business during the building works.

“This is very much a community project which will have a positive impact on the valleys for many years to come.”

All of the properties have been either converted or newly built to the highest environmentally friendly standards.

And the planned landscaping will help blend both the new and Victorian buildings into the picturesque surroundings.

The South of Scotland Enterprise has been Kirkhope Steading’s biggest backer with around £850,000 of investment.

The economic and community development agency’s chair, Professor Russel Griggs, was given a progress tour of the project last week.

He said: “We are delighted to support any project which can help a rural community become more sustainable - not just economically but across all facets that make a community work better.

“This transformational development at Kirkhope Steading will provide much needed affordable housing and workspace in the Ettrick Valley.

“This will help attract more working-aged people to the area, which will provide a host of benefits including supporting the local primary school.

“We are particularly pleased to support the sustainability element of this project, adding resilience to this rural location and supporting SOSE’s aim to see the South of Scotland lead the way in the journey to Net Zero.”

The development hasn’t been without its snags, as undetected problems with one of the roofs emerged during early conversion works.

The recent hike in material costs also led to some rebalancing of the books.

But Scottish Borders Council and the Scottish Government’s Rural Housing Fund both stepped in with additional funding to prevent EYCDC having to increase borrowing.

The local authority granted an extra £120,000 from its Second Homes Council Tax income towards the Kirkhope project.

Council leader Mark Rowley said: “The Second Homes Council Tax fund is designed to help housing projects like this one at Ettrickbridge and increase opportunities for the delivery of affordable homes across the region.

“This development will make a big difference to a small community, with new affordable homes for families and business units which will breathe new life into this part of the valley.”

Application forms for the family homes will be available on the Ettrick and Yarrow Community Development Company website from next month.

Further details for renting one of the workspaces are available by contacting info@ettrickandyarrow.org.uk