Galashiels, Scottish Borders
Galashiels, the second largest town in the Scottish Borders, has a population of around 12,600. As a former textiles town, levels of affluence and employment fluctuate, with one area, Langlee, currently classed as one of the most deprived, based on SIMD 2020. In 2014, the town centre was particularly challenged with the number of vacant units at a record high of 18%, declining footfall year on year and in many parts, visually unattractive.
Energise Galashiels Trust (EGT), a community-based organisation, was established in that year to respond to the continuing decline in the town centre with the aim of creating a more vibrant and welcoming community. EGT has progressed ten years of partnership activity, focusing for the last three years on the Vibrant Gala Project, with support from South of Scotland Enterprise and Scottish Borders Council.
The key aims of the project are to improve the economic performance of the town centre and enhance community activity and wellbeing. To achieve these aims, EGT has focused on: developing community led projects & events in the town centre; marketing Galashiels and providing digital support to enterprises; progressing the Tapestry Way Feasibility Study and development activity; and contributing to a Futures Forum.
EGT has led the development of the popular “Galashiels Heartlands of the Borders” brand, website, and social media platforms to promote Galashiels to locals and visitors. With 125 local enterprises now listed, the website currently attracts around 1500 visitors each month. The group have supported 12 community events over the last 3-4 years, appealing to diverse interests within the community from sport, leisure, heritage, arts and education. For example, EGT launched a Cycling Without Age Trishaw Chapter, reducing social isolation and improving wellbeing.
EGT have also supported the improvement of 35 town centre properties with funding of £119,000, with priority given to long-term vacant premises, large vacant units or those negatively impacting the town centre. This has encouraged new-starts and expanding businesses, creating a more attractive and vibrant town centre with new and additional retail and service offers, as well as local employment.
The judges were impressed with EGT’s dedication to creating a town centre that residents can be proud of, with public art reflecting the heritage of Galashiels and investing in the businesses to create a vibrancy that can continue to be built upon. The team were enthused to see that whilst the Great Tapestry of Scotland has undoubtedly brought many more visitors to the town, the group are focused on creating a place for their residents to utilise and take pride in, and it was impressive to learn about their digital approach and hear how this has helped create a growing sense of community and place.
It’s clearly an exciting time for Galashiels with more changes to come,
and while challenges remain, the EGT and the Vibrant Gala Project are strongly placed to generously support and complement a growing mosaic of groups making the town an even better place to live.