AMBITIOUS proposals to bring an historic Peebles site into the 21st century have received a multi-million pound boost.

Planning for the refurbishment of the A-listed Chambers Institute started at meetings in 2015/16.

The buildings were bequeathed to the town by publisher William Chambers, perhaps best known for his encyclopaedia in 1859.

The development blueprint maps out a plan to convert the council building to accommodate an integrated museum, library, art gallery and flexible event space.

And the plans have now been backed by £4.1 million from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund.

Peebles Community Council chairman Peter Maudsley said: “This award will help to bring our well-loved Chambers Institution up to a modern standard that benefits both visitors and residents alike.

“Following the last council elections, our new Scottish Borders Council (SBC) councillors, as trustees of the Chambers Institution, agreed that we needed a new beginning.

“A ‘Chambers Institution Beneficiaries Group’ was formed from a wide range of interested parties and subsequently, a ‘management’ subgroup.

“This is not a quick project.

“There is a great deal to do, and the residents of Tweeddale will be able to feed into the proposals.”

In 2019/20, Glasgow architects Page\Park developed draft sketches and floor plans for the project.

SBC, the Chambers Institution Trust (CIT) and the building’s managers, Live Borders, then prepared a bid to the government fund which proved unsuccessful.

But the development has been backed in the latest round of bids.

Tweeddale MP David Mundell said: “It was disappointing when these projects didn’t achieve funding during an earlier round of levelling up bids, but I undertook to pursue it with ministers and am delighted that this award of £4.1m has now been secured.”

He added: “The Chambers Institution proposals will help provide a comprehensive range of social, education and business facilities, and a unique, accessible and self-sustaining attraction for local people and visitors now and in the future.”

The CIT’s chairman, Tweeddale East councillor Robin Tatler, said: “This is really good news as we move forward with a community-led project to make this building and the facilities it houses fit for the 21st century and fully accessible for everyone in Tweeddale.

“In the coming weeks and months the trust, led by our beneficiaries group, will continue to develop and share the detailed plans which, thanks to this support, we can now deliver.”

A separate award of £6.8m from the fund will help connect existing walking and cycling routes along the Rivers Clyde, Tweed and Annan to form a network of circular routes.

Mr Mundell said: “This will be a significant boost to active travel in the area and help further support the local tourist economy.”