Newtongrange residents encouraged to engage in the future of village

Midlothian Council leader Catherine Johnstone in the centre of Newtongrange
Midlothian Council leader Catherine Johnstone in the centre of Newtongrange

The people of Newtongrange are being encouraged to have their say on the possible transformation of the centre of the old mining village.

Newbattle Parish Church is set to vacate its current premises in the village centre and develop a smaller modern community space for church services and associated church groups. The church and the landowner, Castle Rock Housing Association, approached Midlothian Council with a view to including the dated local library in any new development.

This would release land that Castle Rock wants and would allow a new library to be built as part of a combined community building.

Attending last week’s Newtongrange Community Council meeting in Newtongrange Library were Mary Smith, Midlothian Council’s director of education, communities and economy, and Ian Johnson, head of communities and economy, who outlined proposals, which could also incorporate a surgery and a swimming pool.

Mrs Smith said: “We are not coming here with plans well thought-out and in our back pocket. These are ideas that could regenerate the community.”

She added that the ideas were not set in stone but were opportunities with no hard and fast rules.

“It’s about what we can do together to re-shape the village,” she said. “It’s trying to get the long-term view.”

She said the combined soon-to-be vacant church, swimming pool, which she said would not last much longer, and library was a large space.

“It gives the community of Newtongrange a huge opportunity to decide what they want,” she continued. “The opportunity to start again with a blank piece of paper.

“If we are all working on the same page with representatives from Castle Rock, representatives from the church and the rest of the village, we can all come together and decide what is best for the community.”

Mr Johnson revealed that some funds were available to get the masterplan off the ground. He added: “It’s pretty much a blank canvas. It’s an opportunity to reshape the centre of Newtongrange.

“So we are starting to look at not just community involvement in this reshaping but also in the background some financing, which might be a catalyst.

“Masterplans will not be made by people in black ties, more a question of people with blank maps asking how are we going to build this up, asking the community what they want.”

Also at the meeting, Allister Shortm NHS Lothian/ Midlothian Council head of primary care and older people, suggested that the new local surgery planned to be in the old Newtongrange Clinic building from next summer probably only had about a five to seven years life-span there.

He said: “We are really interested in something like Poltonhall, where they are putting a brand new practice on the site of the new school. We are very keen to see what any new development here would look like to allow us to get it done together instead of shoehorning it in later.”

Jason Ferry, Newtongrange Community Council chairman, was delighted with what had been said and was keen to help get things started.

He said: “We have a great opportunity as a community to get involved and I would certainly see ourselves as a community council being a stakeholder in this process.

“We can process information both ways and we would certainly try to do that in the most simple way, so that everybody knows what is going on.”

A spokeswoman for Midlothian Council said: “Last Tuesday, councillors approved a further £450,000 of investment to maximise the economic opportunities afforded by the Borders Railway. Of that £450,000, £150,000 will come from the General Fund Reserve to pay for the council’s contribution to comprehensive masterplans, to establish co-ordinated commercial expansion and development opportunities across the Borders rail corridor.

“Two of these four masterplans are in Midlothian, for Newtongrange and Stobhill. Further funding for these masterplans will come from the £10 million Scottish Government Blueprint fund, managed by our Blueprint partners comprising the Scottish Government, Transport Scotland, VisitScotland, Abellio ScotRail and the three local authorities, including ourselves.

“The process of master-planning will offer real opportunities for our communities to have their say in the regeneration of Newtongrange/Stobhill area. Now that the funding has been approved, there will be a process of procuring the appropriate services over the coming months.”