Wilton Park cafe operator is to be known within a week

Hawick councillors Watson MacAteer and Stuart Marshall raise concerns about the new Hawick cafe in Wilton Park not being finished on time.
Hawick councillors Watson MacAteer and Stuart Marshall raise concerns about the new Hawick cafe in Wilton Park not being finished on time.
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Scottish Borders Council has announced that an operator to run a key facility at the heart of Wilton Lodge Park will be named within days.

When £3.6m Lottery-funded work on a major revamp of the park was first announced a new cafe at the centre of the development was seen as a vital element to its successful transformation.

The construction of the cafe has now been completed but as yet a leaseholder to run it has not been appointed.

It is a situation which has frustrated Councillor Watson McAteer, town provost and independent representative for Hawick and Hermitage.

He believes an operator should already been in place to enable the cafe to be up-and-running this summer.

Councillor McAteer claims the delay is “hitting townsfolk and visitors hard”, and last month called on Scottish Borders Council to “pull out all the stops” to get the cafe, built by Esh Border Construction, serving townsfolk and visitors as soon as possible.

Now Scottish Borders Council has released a timetable for the tendering process - with the successful a bidder to be announced this coming Monday.

A council spokesperson said the “strength of the bids” was in part due to the delay.

They added: “The procurement of the operator for Wilton Lodge Park’s new café is progressing well, but due to the strength of the bids received the evaluation process is taking longer than expected to define a clear winner.

“Further information has been requested from the bidders to complete the evaluation and it is hoped that the process will be completed by the end of today, with a preferred bidder announced on Monday.”

Meanwhile, Mr McAteer remains anxious for the facility to be up and running as soon as possible and retains reservations over the bidding process.

He said: “While I acknowledge that we now have a date when a contractor for the cafe will be announced I am concerned that the successful vendor will be required to fit-out the premises and that will inevitably lead to even further delay.

“The delay in bringing this facility to life is affecting local and visitor trade, a situation that Hawick can ill afford and I hope that all the stops will be pulled out to have the premises operational as quickly as possible.”

Hawick and Denholm independent Stuart Marshall has similar misgivings.

He said: “I am very disappointed that townsfolk and visitors still cannot access this new cafe in Wilton Lodge Park.

“I have been informed that the contract for the franchise is being awarded on Monday but clearly it will take some considerable time for the proprietors to get organised - here’s hoping that this facility will be open soon.”

The building was signed off by town schoolchihdren.

As an alternative to a time capsule, Stirches Primary pupil Aiden Middlemass and Trinity Primary’s Ellen Dobbie of Trinity Primary added their signatures to section of the structure before it was covered in cladding.

The park has benefited hugely from the National Lottery-funded work carried out on it over the last few years, and the new £300,000 playpark at Wilton Lodge is proving popular with the public despite being hit by vandal attacks soon after it opened in March.

Patrols by police of the area around the new playpark have been stepped up, last month’s meeting of Hawick Community Council was told.

Once confirmed, the cafe operator can commence the required permissions, certificates and fit-out of the cafe and the approved operator will also be able to provide the timing for the opening.