Chambers Institute

We asked

The Scottish Historic Buildings Trust was commissioned to carry out a community consultation exercise to define an agreed Vision for the future use of the Chambers Institution in Peebles.

The consultation took place from September 2015 to April 2016 and included background information gathering, a questionnaire and a series of stakeholder workshops.

You said

  • 923 people and 124 local organisations were engaged with.
  • 237 questionnaires were completed.
  • 10 interviews took place.

The following strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats were identified for the Chambers Institute through the community consultation:

Strengths

  • The building is highly valued by the local community.
  • There is strong support for it to remain a building for community use and one where the community comes first.
  • The different uses of the building are seen as positive, making it a lively place to visit.
  • The Library and Burgh Hall are the parts most regularly visited.
  • The war memorial and the quiet courtyard are much valued.
  • Peebles High Street is a vibrant place.
  • Peebles is an attractive and creative place.

Opportunities

  • There is a desire to learn more about the history of Peebles.
  • The part which has most scope for change was identified as the Burgh Hall, e.g. removal of fixed staging. There were a range of ideas for removing the false ceiling and adding a gallery or floor at a high level.
  • There is scope to improve collaboration between those providing services at the Chambers Institution.
  • There is a desire to promote the use of the building by young people and for education.

Weaknesses

  • Access to, and within, the building can be difficult for some people.
  • There is a shortage of facilities e.g. toilets/catering/storage.
  • There is a need for more flexible accommodation within the building.
  • Opening hours vary between the services based in the building, which can be confusing for visitors, and can cause problems accessing some parts of the building.
  • The booking system needs to be more user friendly and the cost of booking a space should be more affordable.
  • Major repairs are needed to bring the building into a good condition.
  • The most visited spaces in the building are not easy to find or to physically access.

Threats

  • The older population of Peebles is predicted to increase over the next 20 years. There are currently barriers to accessing the building for those with reduced mobility, visual or hearing difficulties. These are likely to prevent older users from accessing services provided at the Chambers Institute.
  • Lack of clarity over who is responsible for the building management (Chambers Institution Trust, Scottish Borders Council or Live Borders) is unhelpful in building ongoing community support for the building.
  • Peebles has many community facilities, particularly halls. People understand that any decision about future use of the Burgh Hall must avoid duplication; the possibility of co-operation with other venues should be explored.

We did

The Vision for the building was developed from the community’s ideas and further, focused, consultation took place. It was agreed by the Chambers Institution Trust at its meeting on 2 March 2016:

“Local people want the Chambers Institution to maintain and enhance its role as the cultural heart of the community and for it to be attractive, welcoming, well-cared for, accessible and affordable.

“The key uses of the building were identified as: library, museum, art gallery and meeting spaces, and a quiet contemplative courtyard setting for the War Memorial.”

Next steps

At the meeting on 25 May 2016, the Chambers Institution Trust agreed to appoint a design team to:

  • prepare a number of schemes that explore the possibility of delivering the ideas that the community put forward for the building
  • consult on the schemes developed in order to decide which is the preferred scheme
  • calculate how much the preferred scheme will cost, prepare a feasibility study and assess possible funding for the Chambers Institution project

A full copy of the Chambers Institute community consultation report is available to download.