Council anger over High Street’s empty shops

DERELICT shops on the town’s High Street were this week described as ‘scruffy’ and ‘horrific’.

And owners were branded ‘virtually untouchable’ as desperate efforts persist to improve the main thoroughfare.

While the introduction of new ‘shopjackets’ at the former Teviot Flooring and Victoria Wine outlets was warmly welcomed by members of Hawick Community Council this week, anger was expressed at the condition of other vacant properties.

Specific mention was made of the former Green Cafe, the former Jackie Lunn’s shop, the ex-Farmfoods building and the shop that was previously run by Sonny Murray.

Community council chairperson Marion Short said: “I think the shopjackets look lovely but there are some empty shops that look really scruffy.

“The owners have a real brass neck letting them get into such a state. But they’re getting away with it and are virtually untouchable.”

While local councillor George Turnbull added: “There’s so much needing to be done in the town centre and some of these empty properties are quite horrific. It is not good to see properties lying empty and without heat and ventilation they deteriorate quickly and then the repair bill rises dramatically.”

The concerns were expressed after it was revealed this week that Hawick is one of only two Borders towns to show a drop in High Street footfall.

The survey by Scottish Borders Council, which was carried out in September and October last year, showed that the average weekly pedestrian footfall was 7,480, which compared to 8,190 in 2011 and a high of 9,990 in 2008.

This was in contrast to slight increases in all other Borders towns except Peebles, which had a similar decline.

Councillor Turnbull, pictured above, said: “With more and more internet purchases, the town centre is really under attack and new and different approaches will have to be permitted to utilise the many empty retail premises.”

And Hawick MSP John Lamont is urging the government at Holyrood to provide support to businesses.

He said: “Our towns are the heart of the Borders and we cannot simply let them fall away. With retailers having to work harder and harder to turn a profit we have to offer more support, and encourage more people into Hawick town centre. Maybe then we will start to see Hawick footfall levels return to where they were only a few years ago.”