Objectors can’t save Hawick landmark from demolition

Wilton Mills clock tower in Commercial Road, Hawick.
Wilton Mills clock tower in Commercial Road, Hawick.

Another major supermarket could be heading for Hawick after consent was granted this week for the demolition of a landmark Victorian edifice in the town.

The prominent clock tower and its gate lodge – both B-listed by Historic Scotland – are the last tangible evidence of textile manufacture at the large Wilton Mills complex in Commercial Road.

In recent years, neighbouring buildings have been razed to the ground by local development company Wilton Mills Ltd which has also applied for planning consent for a supermarket on the site.

While that bid is pending, Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee voted on Monday for the iconic remains of the mill to face the wrecking ball.

The firm’s Gavin Stevenson later confirmed that retail discounters Aldi were set to move in.

Twenty-one letters of objection to the demolition were submitted to SBC, including an impassioned plea from Hawick Archaeological Society.

“The building should be saved and used as another asset to the town to complement award-winning projects like Tower Mill, the Heritage Hub and Drumlanrig Tower,” stated the society.

“Without vision, effort and forward thinking, these buildings would also have been demolished.”

But Hawick Community Council claimed the cost of repairing the structure to make it wind and water tight would be around £1.5m.

“Realistically, we cannot justify the spending of that amount of money,” it added.

Senior planning officer John Hayward, recommending approval, said the repair of the property was not economically viable – a key criterion in deciding the fate of a listed building in Scotland.

“The applicant has provided information to demonstrate there is no surplus from the proposed redevelopment of the site for a supermarket to provide a cross subsidy,” said Mr Hayward.

He said attempts to market the site and the listed buildings to other potential developers had failed to elicit any serious enquiries.

On a division, the committee voted 5-3 to allow the demolition on condition that the clock tower cupola, clock faces and carved stone lettering beneath the eaves are carefully dismantled and set aside for incorporation in any new development on the site.

Watching from the public benches was Councillor Watson McAteer (Hawick and Denholm) who commented later: “The decision, while an understandable blow to many, appeared inevitable given the state of the building and the substantial costs of renovation.

“It is vital very rapid progress is made now for a new development and that we are not left with a derelict site, adjoining our main thoroughfare through the town.”