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October 22, 2008

Residents to vote on future of youth hostel

The Scottish Youth Hostel Association has carried out a major review and upgrade of many of its hostels. Seven hostels have been earmarked for disposal and one of these is the hostel at Coldingham. For years, the hostel has been a major draw for visitors and the local community appreciate its crucial value to the local economy. They are determined that it should be retained


THE fate of Coldingham Sands Youth Hostel now lies in the hands of Coldingham and St Abbs voters.

A £425,000 valuation has been put on the building by an independent valuer appointed by the Scottish Government and since receiving the valuation last week the local community company, set up to buy the building and keep it open as a tourist facility, has a month to ballot local residents to see if the support is there for a community buy-out.

In September last year Scottish Youth Hostel Association announced that their building at Coldingham was one of seven across the country planned for closure.

As a result a local community company was set up by residents in Coldingham and St Abbs and under community right to buy legislation they registered their interest with the Scottish Government.

A viable business plan was approved, a positive response from the Big Lottery to help with 95 per cent of the purchase price is in place and local fund raising is continuing. But the whole thing could come to nothing if the support of local people is not there.

A ballot, under the control of a Scottish Borders Council returning officer, will take place on the weekend of October 18-20 (Saturday to Monday).

Ged Hearne, chair of the Coldingham Sands Community Company, explained the next step: “Under this legislation what we have to do next is conduct a ballot. We need a 50 per cent plus turn-out of the entire area of Coldingham and St Abbs and need to secure a yes vote.

“We need people to turn out and vote. We are now relying on people to come and vote to support this important community asset.”

With a purchase price of £425,000 the community will need to raise around £27,000 to buy the building, Ged explaining that the lottery “strongly indicated an ability to provide 95 per cent provided all goes to plan”. However, that is merely the start and as well as running costs a further £½ million is likely to be needed to carry out essential maintenance, repairs and refurbishment.

Voting will start in Coldingham Village Hall on Saturday, October 18. The hall will remain open on the Sunday and Monday for voters to cast their vote and postal votes will be available for those who cannot get to the village hall. On Monday, members of the community company plan to go house to house in an effort to ensure that as many people as possible vote in order to reach the 50 per cent requirement of eligible voters.

If votes are cast by less than 50 per cent of residents then the whole project will come to an end and the building will go onto the open market. And the same will happen if there is a negative response from voters to the community buy-out of the building

“We only have till the end of the year to have everything finalised,” said Ged. “Through working with Edwin Thompson we have come up with three options for the hostel, each in a different price range.”

Built at the turn of the 20th century and run as a convalescent home until just after the war, Scottish Youth Hostel Association bought the house from the Home-Robertson family and over the years hundreds of thousands of people have stayed there.

Speaking after a meeting held during the summer Ged said: “Since the hostel closed businesses in the village have noticed a massive drop in trade – having the occasional group booking at weekends has made little difference. Having the hostel up and running again would be a major result for Coldingham. Aside of farming, tourism is the biggest industry in the area. We’re highly confident that we can raise the money – we just need the community on board.”