Seventy per cent of local traders took part in a recent survey aimed at boosting Hawick High Street.
Business owners from North Bridge Street to Victoria Road including Commercial Road and several locations in between responded to the detailed questionnaire.
The survey shows that 89 percent of local businesses are owner-managed and 62 per cent of those have been established for over 10 years, an overwhelming 62 percent would not consider moving onto the High Street as it is at present.
And if one thing was clear at last Friday’s Future Hawick meeting it was that there is no easy fix to the High Street problem in Hawick.
But chairing the group tasked with forging the way ahead, Andrew Farquhar says he’s upbeat at the initial response: “The steering group is making preparations to kickstart the regeneration of the town centre as soon as the new Future Hawick gets launched in the next few months.
“There has been an excellent response from businesses to the questionnaire but we would like them all back. This is important because the information is of great quality and will be crucial in identifying priorities for use at public consultations, establishing remits for groups, providing evidence for funding bids and for use by partners such as the council as well as elected representatives, police and education.
“In fact much of this information will be developed further and used to identify a number of objectives for the new Future Hawick for years to come.”
Apart from high rates, the issues impacting most on local businesses include: parking, pavement cleanliness, street signage, traffic flow, state of the empty shops, lack of police and street lighting.
But perhaps the most worrying finding is that more than half of all local businesses either won’t or are unsure if they’ll renew their lease.
Commenting further, Mr Farquhar said: “One big concern already is that half the responses from businesses indicated they won’t or are unsure if they’ll renew their leases.
“We have to drill down into that further to get their reasons but in the meantime move quickly to improve the appearance of the town and increase footfall by organising more town-centre attractions. People are becoming increasingly aware of what we are trying to achieve and there are interesting ideas coming in from those who are keen to get involved.
“The opportunity to involve all interested parties will come soon but in the meantime the small steering group is focused and launch the new Future Hawick and plan for its long term sustainability.”
Other issues highlighted include concerns that another supermarket may be on its way to town and the direction of the one-way system, which 54 per cent of respondees are not happy with, 26 per cent don’t see an issue with the present traffic flow and the remaining 20 per cent don’t have an opinion on it.
The need for an indoor type Saturday market in some of the larger empty shops and the resseruction of the shop local campaign are also seen as short-term goals. Also high on the agenda is the appointment of a town centre manager, parking issues, street signage and the condition of empty shops.
Mr Farquhar added: “There is a need for good coordination and funding for a town-centre manager is a priority. Councillor McAteer has already identified this and raised it with SBC. A response is awaited but if this fails we will have to look at other options.”