Council shies away from interview

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Scottish Borders Council refused to allow a Hawick News reporter to interview officials about High Street regeneration.

And the local authority took 48 hours to “agree” the content of an official statement.

The council said it was unable to agree to an interview request and that an official statement would be provided instead.

This, according to local Tory councillor George Turnbull, is “appalling”.

Speaking to the Hawick News this week, Mr Turnbull said: “This is appalling. But when you consider the way the council handled the green waste issue and the way the whole Jim Clark Rally thing is being handled, it is not surprising.

“Despite an ever-growing communications department this council is not good at communicating its message.”

The SBC statement reads: “The challenge of increased vacancy rates and falling footfall in high streets across the country has been recognised by the Scottish Government and resulted in the publication of its ‘Town Centre Action Plan’ in November 2013, which called for change through joint action, leadership and collaboration. The council also believes our town centres and high streets are the heart of our communities.

“Hawick Community Council and the business community in Hawick have already made a positive start in responding to the regeneration challenge of the town centre, working together in the High Street regeneration group. The council has been supporting these discussions, recognising that local business and community leadership is critical in achieving successful regeneration actions.

“The council has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to the regeneration of Hawick with major projects including the Heart of Hawick complex and town-centre Streetscape works. Funding has also been provided by the council for 30 shopfront improvements through the Shopfront Improvement Grant Scheme and grant-aided FutureHawick’s Shop Jacket initiative to improve the visual appearance of the High Street.

More recently, the Wilton Lodge Park restoration project, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the council, will provide a high-quality visitor attraction close to the town centre.

“The council recognises the immediate and significant challenge to be addressed in Hawick. As our largest town, and an area with higher than average rates of deprivation, the recent announcements of High Street closures highlight the pressing need for a focused and targeted approach for Hawick.

“In order to deliver the support required for town-centre regeneration within current budgets, the council aims to take a focused approach, taking advantage of new opportunities and making best use of the internal and external resources available.”