If the bid to bring Aldi to Commercial Road doesn’t get council planning permission, it is giving the message that Hawick is effectively “closed for business”.
That’s the stark message delivered this week by Councillor Watson McAteer who say repeated delays on the Aldi bid are giving the wrong impression to potential investors.
And the developer behind the plans is claiming that there is no “practical way” of saving the old Wilton Mills clocktower after a survey puts the bill at more than £2million, while the market value after restoration will be £400,000.
Speaking to the Hawick News this week, a clearly frustrated GLS boss Gavin Stevenson said: “Sadly there is no practical way of securing the clock tower. Subject to appropriate consents being granted, then we will endeavour to retain for reuse as many important features as possible.”
He added: “In regard to the Aldi application, we have worked with SBC officials for some 18 months now and had significant assistance from local ward members Stuart Marshall and Watson McAteer.
“We sincerely hope that the wishes of the vast majority of local people, including retailers, will prevail and more linked trips will be encouraged by the choice provided.”
Councillor McAteer says it’s time the application went through: “Every single opportunity must be grasped to secure Hawick’s future and development of Commercial road is a top priority.
“I believe it’s closeness and accessibility to the High Street will complement rather than hinder the ongoing work to bring life back into our town centre.
“While I fully understand the concerns of some traders, refusal to allow development of this site may send a signal to those wishing to invest in the town that Hawick is closed for business, a situation none of us can afford and a legacy we must not leave for others.”
Councillor Marshall added: “I feel that if this issue is not resolved soon then our town will miss out.
“I regularly hear it from the public that there is little choice in Hawick , well here we have an opportunity to create choice and I think that we should get behind these proposals and give people another good reason to come to our town to shop.”
And when the Hawick News contacted Hawick’s remaining councillors this week, the response was mixed.
Councillor Davie Paterson refused to comment, saying he was busy with constituency business, Ron Smith who chairs the council’s planning committee said he couldn’t comment and while Alastair Cranston said he was unaware of any problems with the application, he supported the Aldi bid.
George Turnbull added:“With regard to sending a negative message that Hawick is closed for business, I think this is a ridiculous statement and I certainly do not think headlines like this does any favours for Hawick.
“Under the Code of Conduct which all Councillors are duty bound to adhere too It would be improper for all concerned if I were to interfere with a planning application that is being processed through all the proper procedures.”
Robert Stoddart, Property Director for Aldi Stores in Scotland, said: “Aldi remains 100% committed to Hawick and we are grateful for all the support we have received already from local shoppers and businesses. It is important for the community to have their say in the planning process and we welcome this.”