Parker goes on the offensive over development group role

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COUNCIL leader David Parker has leapt to the defence of the Hawick Development Group amid mounting criticism.

The group, which meets once every two months, was set up following the demise of Pringle in a desperate bid to attract industry and boost the town’s beleaguered economy.

But it was this week branded a “talking shop” by Councillor Davie Paterson, while fellow Hawick councillor Stuart Marshall revealed his frustration at the time it takes to put ideas into practice.

Councillor Marshall said: “We should be meeting more regularly and we are certainly needing to action outcomes from those meetings much quicker than at present.”

Chaired by Councillor Parker, the group, which is the only one of its kind in the Borders, includes leading officials from the local authority and gives the town’s councillors the chance to quiz them on specific developments on a more intimate basis.

And Hawick’s councillors Ron Smith, Jock Houston and Zandra Elliot believed this was a good thing which should be maintained.

Following the latest meeting last Friday, where issues regarding the college were discussed, Councillor Smith said: “I believe the group is very useful. It gives the opportunity to question council officers regarding economic development in the area, planning matters and approaches to and from businesses. It gives all the local councillors the chance to keep up to date. If this is the definition of a talking shop, so be it!”

While Councillor Houston pointed at the development on the south side of Commercial Road and the work currently under way in Burnfoot, south of Fairhurst Drive, where new sites are being serviced for industrial development, as success stories.

In launching his defence, Councillor Parker admitted that, due to the sensitive nature of the work, much of it was conducted in private. But he assured townsfolk that it is playing its part in the recovery process.

He said: “Our role is to support inward investment in terms of making it as easy as possible but a big piece of the work we do is about trying to support existing businesses and companies who are already in the town and who want to grow or want to survive. Sadly we can’t always tell you about that work but believe you me, a huge amount is going on.”

n Talking Point, p13