Scottish Borders Council has had to spend almost £40,000 over the past five years on emergency works needed at four privately-owned buildings in Hawick deemed to be in a dangerous condition.
That money has yet to be reclaimed from the owners of the derelict properties, and that is an unacceptable state of affairs according to a councillor for the town.
“It is shocking at a time when we are struggling to carry out pothole repairs on our roads that our council is faced with this considerable expense,” said Councillor Stuart Marshall, an independent representing Hawick and Denholm.
Mr Marshall asked about the number of derelict buildings in the Borders requiring public-funded emergency repairs over the last year at the latest full council meeting and said he was left shocked by the answer he got.
He was told by Councillor Ron Smith, the authority’s executive member for planning and the environment, that the council had had to act in 80 cases involving dangerous buildings in the last 12 months.
“The council has been required to undertake emergency works in 13 of these cases at a total cost of £6,058, and respective owners have been invoiced for the works,” said Mr Smith, a Hawick and Hermitage ward representative.
“It is anticipated that a further seven of the outstanding cases are likely to require direct action by the council, and the cost of these works has not yet been quantified.
“Councillor Marshall may wish to note that a number of premises in Hawick have required to be visited multiple times during this period, including the former Almstrongs retail store in Oliver Crescent, the old textile factories of N Peal in Victoria Road and Glenmac in Teviot Road and the former Woodcocks engineering building in Mansfield Crescent.
“He may also wish to note that the outstanding costs for works undertaken by the council at these four premises in the past five years is £39,338.”
The Glenmac building had required two visits, and all the others had been attended to three times, the meeting heard.
Asked about the council’s success rate in recovering money from property owners, Mr Smith said he did not have that information to hand but would try to find out, adding that three methods of recovery – invoicing, charging orders and debt recovery services – were used.
After the meeting, Mr Marshall told the Southern Reporter: “The fact that nearly £40,000 is outstanding for work on just four buildings suggests this is the tip of a very expensive iceberg, given the number of derelict eyesores which are dotted around our region’s towns.
“While I fully appreciate our duty to make these buildings safe, in my view we should be pursuing the owners with the same vigour that we pursue people who don’t pay their council tax.
“This is a big issue, not just in my ward, but across the Borders, and we must apply maximum pressure on those responsible for letting these buildings fall into such disrepair.”