PLANS to turn a former Borders mill into a Mountain Bike Innovation Centre have taken a major step forward.

A multi-million-pound deal has been struck by South of Scotland Enterprise, on behalf of the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, to buy Caerlee Mill in Innerleithen.

The purchase was made to transform the the former mill into the new home for a Mountain Bike Innovation Centre, where Scottish, UK and international companies can develop products and services, or even train athletes.

“The council is incredibly excited that we’ve finally got this project off the ground,” said Scottish Borders Council (SBC) leader Mark Rowley. “We only signed the [Borderlands] Growth Deal for £450million in March and already we’ve got boots on the ground and the site’s ours, the investment’s ready to go.

Mr Rowley added: “All of the mountain biking community is behind us and it’s just going to be the most fantastic project, here, right in the heart of the Borders, in Tweeddale and Innerleithen.

“And [we’re] just ready to push for the regeneration of the area, so there’s huge excitement.”

The Innovation Centre will benefit from £19 million of investment from the UK Government. This is part of £265 million investment the government is making in the Borderlands Growth Deal.

In addition to this, the Scottish Government is investing £85 million in the deal.

David Mundell, Tweeddale’s MP, said: “It’s a huge opportunity for the community and area and I’m glad to see it being seized.

“I’ve worked hard over many years to get support for this project and the whole Borderlands initiative.

“To me it brings together the past and future of Innerleithen because only a few years ago Innerleithen was struggling with the closure of the mills – we had empty shops in the High Street.

“And really mountain biking has in many ways regenerated the area.

“Caerlee Mill brings the two things together – the past and the future, the heritage is protected.

“We’ve got what will be an international centre for mountain biking here in Innerleithen and we need to build on the opportunities that brings.

“Of course we need to have all the facilities as well because people do from time to time feel overwhelmed by mountain biking participants.

“The council, South of Scotland Enterprise (SoSE) and others have got to continue to put the facilities in place to meet that need.”

The Innovation Centre is predicted to contribute £141m in Gross Value Added (GVA) and is expected create more than 400 jobs over a 10-year period across the South of Scotland region.

And local mountain biking businesses are looking forward to what the Innovation Centre will bring to the town.

Matthew Morrison, the retail manager at Tweed Valley Bikes, based on the High Street, told us: “Numerous projects have been spoken about for years in the Tweed Valley and this is definitely one that seems to be moving forward very quickly.”

Speaking on what the Innovation Centre means for the area, Mr Morrison said: “I think it just means even more focus on cycling, just in general in the Tweed Valley and especially Innerleithen.

“Not just mountain biking but road cycling, gravel cycling as well.

“I think all these events and the Innovation Centre keep putting Innerleithen even more on the map for cycling in the UK.”

At an event to mark the latest step forward in the project’s development, the parliamentary under secretary of state for Scotland, Iain Stewart, told the Border Telegraph he’d had a “fantastic” time visiting Innerleithen.

He said: “It’s been really exciting to see the potential for the new Innovation Centre.

“I’ve been learning that mountain biking is a hugely important part of the local economy, and this will only help it.

“We’ve now signed the full deal for the Borderlands, we did that last year.

“So, that money is there to be drawn down.

“I was hearing this morning there’s probably about a two-year building period to transform the old mill so that work can start pretty soon now that we’ve got the deal in place.

“I very much look forward to coming back and seeing it progress.”

A planning application for the centre is expected to be submitted to the local authority this spring.

You might also be interested in:

  • New biking festival aims to give new perspective on cycling
  • Peebles man appears on The Chase – find out how he did
  • Tools stolen from van during break-in at Peeblesshire car park, say police