Community leaders hit out at Burnfoot findings

BURNFOOT is being hailed as home to a unique community spirit and a culture of innovation that is the envy of the education sector as local people respond to the area being listed as one of Scotland’s most deprived.

The estate was recognised as suffering the highest level of deprivation of all Borders zones studied as part of the 2012 Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.

However, the statistics, it is argued by residents, do not reflect the quality of life and close-knit community that exists within the Borders’ largest housing estate.

“People here are used to Burnfoot being stigmatised,” said Richard Knight, 42, the chair of Burnfoot Community Council who has lived in the area all his life. “There are only half a dozen empty houses in the area. Years ago, people didn’t want to live in Burnfoot, now they do.

“People know that the figures show it’s deprived, but they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

Burnfoot is among five areas in the Borders that fall into the top 15 per cent in terms of deprivation from a Scotland-wide division of almost 1,000 local zones. Across seven categories, the estate was named most deprived in two: income and education.

But, Janice Chapman, head of Burnfoot Community School, said the conclusions drawn by many from the results of the study would fail to take into account the exemplary work being carried out by local teachers.

“The school has a tremendous reputation for meeting the needs of the school community through innovative work which is nationally recognised as being sector-leading,” Mrs Chapman told the Hawick News this week. “We are held up nationally as an example of success and are visited by people from across the country to look at the work we do to support children’s learning and emotional development.”

Mr Knight explained that local council initiatives have helped to foster a community spirit that remains unrivalled in the area.

“There are family nights at Easter, Halloween and Christmas, and the community centre runs various groups for families.

“It’s a very close-knit community, very community-spirited, and everybody knows their neighbours – not like some of the cities where can walk past folk and not know them for years. There are people here to help you when you need help.”

Local councillor Stuart Marshall added: “I do not think that Burnfoot should be stigmatised by the outcomes shown in the report.”

Newcastleton and Teviot was measured as the most deprived area in terms of access to amenities.

The other most deprived areas in the Borders were as follows: crime, Galashiels North; housing, Innerleithen and Walkerburn; health, Galashiels West; employment, Langlee.