David Parker under fire over tapestry ‘consultation’

Alex Salmond and council leader David Parker announced in December 2014 that the Great Tapestry would have a permanent home at Tweedbank station.
Alex Salmond and council leader David Parker announced in December 2014 that the Great Tapestry would have a permanent home at Tweedbank station.

Scottish Borders Council’s decision to site a £3.5m visitor centre for the Great Tapestry of Scotland was made “in a careful and transparent way”.

That was the riposte of council leader David Parker to claims there had been no public consultation over the Tweedbank project, which is being funded by the council to the tune of £3.5m and is set to receive planning consent next week.

The charge was levelled by opposition councillor Gavin Logan (Tweeddale East) during a heated exchange at last week’s full council meeting at the Newtown St Boswells council chamber.

“Given the increasing level of public debate on this controversial issue, do you agree there should now be a public consultation on the tapestry project?” asked Mr Logan.

Councillor Parker, whose Melrose and Leaderdale ward includes Tweedbank, told him: “The council has made its decision…in a careful and very transparent way.

“Elected members first considered the matter in May, 2014.

“There followed preparation and discussion over six months of the detailed business case and the inclusion of the tapestry proposals within the [Scottish Government’s] Borders Railway Blueprint.

“In December, 2014, following a seminar for all members, the council concluded the project should be supported.

“I have no doubt out at all that every member has discussed the project with their constituents and has been able to represent their views and feelings in the discussions we have had.

“Moving forward, there is a planning application on which the public can comment and we believe a petition will be brought to the Petitions and Deputations Committee on October 1.”

Responding, Mr Logan cited the council’s decision to go out to 12 weeks of public consultation over the proposed siting of a £1.3million 3G sports pitch in Peebles.

“The tapestry is a much bigger project and will cost this council £3.5m so why has a similar exercise not been carried out in your ward?” he asked.

Mr Parker: “I can assure Mr Logan that the people of Tweedbank have had numerous opportunities to discuss the tapestry.”

After the meeting, Mr Logan claimed the decision had been “anything but transparent”.

“A visit to Tweedbank Community Council does not constitute consultation when Borderers are being asked to foot the bill of £200,000 over the next 30 years,” he said.

“Neither does commenting on a planning application for Tweedbank at the expense of any other site amount to consultation and Mr Parker knows this.”