INNERLEITHEN is said to be booming with tourists but a perceived lack of infrastructure is causing concern.

Facilities such as toilets, bins, and accommodation were brought to the fore at the town’s community council meeting last week.

Resident Chris Clarke said Innerleithen’s “burgeoning” tourist industry desperately calls for swift action to improve facilities.

She believes that people having to “pay to pee” is “ludicrous” and wants to see the toilets being open to the public and visitors free of charge.

“I believe that our toilets should be made free so they can be used, easily accessed and not cause people grief when the 30p doesn’t work.

“I was in one of the shops in the town a couple of weeks ago and some tourists had come in asking to use their facilities because they couldn’t get into the toilets and it’s just an example of how ludicrous it seems to me that we can’t provide free toilets.”

The Red Bull car park attracts a lot of tourists in campervans, but there is no bin located within it.

Ms Clarke said: “I think there is a need for a proper SBC [Scottish Borders Council] rubbish bin down at the big car park at the bottom of Traquair Road where the bikers are. There are other forestry commission car parks like Glenkinnon which has got one and it’s about a quarter of the size of the big car park in Innerleithen.

“It seems incomprehensible to me that we don’t have a bin there to support the people using that car park to dispose of their rubbish easily.”

There were plans to provide overnight facilities for campervans on land next to the cemetery.

However, this sparked controversy among residents in Innerleithen and Walkerburn and the proposals have now been put on the back burner.

Ms Clarke said: “The proposal of an Aire in Innerleithen, which is the continental-style places which most French towns have, where people can fill up with water, dispose of waste, and it is often done at a small charge.

“I know people seem to be very horrified at the prospect of it being in the field next to the cemetery, but my experience of Aires in France is people use them to have a very quick stop overnight, or do some filling up or discharging, but they don’t go there to party.”

The resident says it’s time to do more to welcome visitors to the town.

“I just think that we’ve got a real good news story for Innerleithen, it’s a thriving town, it’s busy with visitors, the pubs are busy, the shops are busy.

“I visited Coldingham beach in the last few weeks, there’s an SBC toilet on that beach completely free,” said Ms Clarke.

Following a Freedom of Information request to SBC regarding the revenue from the toilets in Innerleithen, Mr Clarke told the meeting that in 2019/20 it was just over £2,000, and the figure for 2020/21 is currently £585.

She added: “I feel we could do more to the town to welcome visitors and see that these residents are being properly catered for.”

Community council chairman Marshall Douglas updated members on the proposals for the French-style facilities.

“The developers looking at the proposal for the Aire are looking at other sites now and they won’t be proceeding at the side of the cemetery this summer, they’ll probably use that for parking, but certainly not for an Aire. They are looking at the Red Bull car park and there are on-going consultations on that.”

Tweeddale East councillor Robin Tatler said that, as restrictions get eased, Innerleithen will receive more visitors and additional facilities will be needed.

He said that every town and village within the Borders has toilet facilities open for the public – some are chargeable and others are free.

Peebles Community Trust has taken over one toilet block in Peebles which is chargeable and he suggested this is something Innerleithen could also do.

Mr Tatler, an independent councillor, added: “The issue with it being free is that nothing is free, clearly you have to pay for the maintenance, and as a result of the pandemic, the costs are even greater because there has to be a lot more cleaning.”

He also suggested a car parking review of Innerleithen as he receives many complaints about this issue.

Agreeing that car parking is a problem in the town, Stuart Bell, an SNP councillor for Tweeddale East, said: “I think the initiative that the Tweed Valley Tourist Consortium has raised in terms of the occasional use of the site between the cemetery and Iron Mountain as an overflow car park makes a lot of sense.

“I do think we need an Aire, but that would require planning permission and because of a whole series of concerns and the timescale to get planning permission will mean it’s not going to open and accessible in the summer.”

Mr Bell told the meeting that SBC refuses to collect bins from forestry car parks and revealed to the meeting why there is a bin at Glenkinnon.

“What happened, which is the rather creative way that a resident got round that, was they got an extra wheelie bin by the fairest means, and every week wheel it out into the Glenkinnon car park and leave it there. People throw their rubbish in and the day the bin lorry comes round, they put it back next to their house and it’s been working.”

Mr Bell said he wanted to increase the funding to open more toilets but this was opposed by Mr Tatler and the rest of the SBC administration at the budget meeting.

“Robin Tatler has responsibility for that function in the council so he made his own decision on his own basis, but I agree with you we should have more public toilets open,” Mr Bell said.

“Coming out of the pandemic there’s a growing number of the public that want to have access to toilets and that’s why we proposed to put more money into toilets and councillor Tatler voted against that.”

It was also revealed that Forestry Land Scotland has a strong policy not to provide bins within their car parks.

Andy Weir from Ridelines, who disagrees with this, added: “They are fiercely opposed to putting out bins and they want to actively encourage people to take their rubbish away, however, my personal opinion is they do a very poor job of promoting that.”

Ms Clarke believes there needs to be more solution-focused thinking and SBC should be challenged on its policies.

“We’ve suddenly got a town which is absolutely heaving with people and we can’t sort toilets and a rubbish bin. It’s good to hear that the Aire might come about in the next 12 months, but these other things are so basic, and quite apart from the whole human rights issue of being able to pee without having to pay, I just feel we need to challenge the council.”

Mr Tatler agreed to raise the issues with SBC and report back to the meeting.