‘Difference of opinion’ over twin town tree

Confusion reigns over the large fir tree in front of the museum which has been cut down as part of Wilton Lodge Park’s £3.64million regeneration.

Monday night’s Hawick Community Council meeting in the lesser town hall heard conflicting views over whether or not the tree, which is one of two which recognise Hawick’s twin town status with Bailleul, had been earmarked for removal in a bid to improve the views to and from the museum.

Chair Marion Short said she had sought clarification from park regeneration manager Scott Castle, and although he had not responded, she was contacted by one of his colleagues, Kevin McCrory, who insisted the tree was “always always noted for removal and was included in the drawing issued and discussed with councillors and Hawick in Bloom prior to work commencing”.

Mrs Short said she had spoken to Hawick in Bloom’s John Ingles after the tree had been cut down to around five or six feet high, and the former Scottish Borders Council parks manager was “adamant, very clear in his mind that that specific tree was not to be cut down”.

She said that the remaining stump would be carved into the shape of a trout, which would be a compromise they would have to accept.

Explaining the rationale behind the choice of a trout, community councillor French Wight said 2016 was the Year of the Trout in Wilton Lodge Park.

Alluding to what Mrs Short described as “differences of opinion” over the fir tree, Scottish Borders Council councillor, Watson McAteer, said he was disappointed and added: “There was a very detailed plan produced for us all to have a look at and we were all satisfied that the right thing was going to be done. But there’s clearly been a misunderstanding of some sort.”

Councillor Davie Paterson: “It was always made quite clear that the tree was to be removed.”

Community councillor Andy Maybury: “So one way or another, somebody has got it wrong. If it’s the contractors, which sounds less likely, then there will be a penalty clause which needs to be activated.

“If it’s the Hawick in Bloom folk or whoever who didn’t pick it up at the consultation stage, they need to recognise that and put in place some clearer protocols so that such things are scrutinised at an early stage because that’s when the decisions happen.”

Mr McAteer said Mr Castle should be asked to provide an explanation at the Wilton Lodge Park Stakeholders meeting later this month.

Councillor Paterson reiterated: “It was made quite clear at several meetings I was at that the tree was to be taken away to open up the site and let people see the museum from the A7, to get more people into the park.

“I wasn’t very happy when I first heard the trees were to be removed, but I was persuaded it was the best possible course of action.”

Mrs Short said there had been a great deal of misunderstanding and echoed Mr McAteer’s comment that the issue should be raised at the forthcoming stakeholders meeting.