Peebles

Independent High Street

Peebles is in the privileged position of having a town centre shopping area (High Street, Northgate and Old Town) not only comprising unique architecture (no two buildings are the same) but made up of predominently independent retailers,cafes and pubs.  And in the recent past Peebles has won accolades for its town centre businesses, and this has been echoed in the continuing high levels of footfall from locals and visitors to the town, and the low number of vacant premises.  So if you want to buy books, nick-nacks, clothes, home furnishings or toys, Peebles is the place.  Or sample the delights of a wide range of eateries and hostelries - for all tastes and budgets. 

But it's not by accident that Peebles has such an attractive centre, built around the hopes and aspirations of a wide range of people through the ages - through various generations of local landowners and wealthy families, benefactors such as the Chambers brothers (of Chamber Dictionary fame) who were born and brought up in Peebles (in a house on Biggiesknowe), mill owners, an informed and caring Town Council, and the continued care and vigilance of town residents, the Peebles Community Council, and the Planning Department of the Scottish Borders Council and our elected councillors.  But it is not without its problems.  Efforts to bring the old courthouse and prison into community ownership were ultimately unsuccessful.  The two retail floors of Veitch's Corner, a truly iconic and well kent building where the old road from Edinburgh along the Northgate meets the High Street at the Mercat Cross, have remained vacant for the last five years.  The very old coaching inn - The Cross Keys - is only now once again coming into commercial use under the ownership of  - a national chain!!  And efforts are still underway to return the Chambers Institution, bequeathed to the town by William Chambers back in 1959, to community ownership and operation. 

Maintaining the vitality of the town's centre, protecting and preserving our built heritage whilst also making the centre fit for our modern needs is no easy task.  Various local organisations are working to navigate a safe passage for future prosperity whilst respecting and enhancing the fabulous architecture that we have inherited.  The Community Council and the Peebles Civic Society do their best to scrutinise planning applications and represent the town's best interests.  The Peebles Community Trust is working to provide a strategic framework for town development, and where appropriate to move to take key buildings and services into community ownership and operation.  And together these and other town bodies are seeking to lay down a blue-print for future development in the form of a Town Master Plan under the "Vision for Peebles" initiative.

In terms of recording, documenting and communicating the history of the town and its buildings, there are active groups associated with the town's main museum - the Tweeddale Museum - fittingly located within the Chambers Institution on the High Street.  The museum and museum service staff have many documents and artifacts in their possession, including resources such as line drawings of each of the buildings along the town's central thoroughfares, and many archive photographs of these same buildings in use over the years.  A recent initiative (2013) to bring the history of the town centre to a wider audience is a joint venture between the Civic Society and the Tweeddale Museum to prepare an exhibition and accompanying print and film material on "A 1000 years of Peebles High Street".