Call for action on regeneration of grey auld toon

editorial image

II take great pride in telling people I’m from Hawick. Our folk are uncompromising in their sense of kinship and passionate to succeed in everything they do. I’ve grown up surrounded by people who have an unnatural determination to win, and I love that.

But during a recent Festive holiday in the Grey Auld toon I was struck by the drop in morale among some of the townsfolk I caught up with.

It is unsurprising that people are disheartened by the decline of our High Street. I also appreciate why more recent developments in the town have been the topic of debate. I refuse to believe, however, that we have lost belief in our town; lost trust in our own ability to help turn things around.

Challenging friends on Facebook to post ideas and visions that they have for Hawick, I was overwhelmed with the response, both public and private, and the number of constructive ideas that people had.

A recent issue of the Hawick News brought additional encouragement in the form of a letter from George Thorburn, who, coincidentally, had shared very similar sentiments to that of my Facebook thread.

It seems the fires that produced many of Hawick’s great accolades still burn. So if the passion isn’t missing, what is? A medium for people to share ideas, perhaps?

Collaboration between our Council and ‘the people’? A combination of the two, I suspect.

In my opinion, we would benefit from having an Economic Regeneration Group who would work to brainstorm, socialise and validate ‘ideas’ for Hawick’s development.

Voted on as part of a poll, the Group would act on behalf of the community to steer the economic regeneration of the town.

The Regeneration Group would be comprised of two parts: a central team set up to co-ordinate various ‘ideas’ presented to it by smaller Initiative Parties.

The central team would work in collaboration with the council and would be accountable to the townsfolk. Their role would be to gain an understanding of the fundamentals that influence development (i.e. planning, funding), and provide a framework and the necessary tools required by Initiative Parties to properly explore their ideas.

Initiative Parties would comprise like-minded individuals who share a common passion and belief that their proposal has potential to bring sustainable economic benefit to the town.

A group of cyclists, say, who believe we could create trails, downhill tracks and country road runs that attract tourism.

Equestrian enthusiasts keen to explore a rejuvenation of the circular riding route, a cross-country course, or all weather training facilitates for Northern Racing. Mums who believe it’s time to bring soft play to Hawick, or hill walkers who can see appetite for guided tours of our common.

This is an opportunity for all demographics to present their ideas – there should be no boundaries.

Initiative Parties would be responsible for exploring the benefits of their idea. Gauging interest in it, defining how it might work, then present the same to the central Regeneration team who would provide the requisite advice and guidance on how to take the idea further, championing it with the relevant authorities. Ideas may even culminate in a concept that a private investor may wish to take forward, they don’t have to rely solely on public funding.

Ideally the Group would encapsulate existing Hawick initiatives, creating a cohesive approach to regenerate the town.

Over the last few weeks I have had a number of conversations with the high school, councillors, business owners, and townsfolk, each of whom have shown genuine interest to get on board. Indeed, a working group has already stepped forward to establish how we might develop a framework for the concept.

Of course, this will only work with the involvement of the whole community – who better to drive change? While we work to establish a means to gauge the interest of the townsfolk to get involved, initial feedback would be very welcome via the Hawick News.

Wouldn’t it feel amazing to sit back in 10 years knowing you were part of a regeneration exercise successfully driven by the people, for the people? Build it, and they will come, right?

Craig I. Reid