‘It’s not the end of it yet’ as Smith’s sandwich bar vote comes under fire

A FORMER councillor plans to further his complaint about the actions of Hawick and Hermitage representative Ron Smith during council discussions on a recent planning application.

Jamie Batten took exception to Councillor Smith’s handling of the application by Aitken Turnbull to convert part of the Buccleuch Street company’s premises into a sandwich bar.

Mr Smith, SBC’s planning portfolio holder, discussed the matter with council colleagues and, when a subsequent vote was held, emerged as one of six councillors to reject the proposal, with five in support.

Mr Batten feels that as Mr Smith has connections to two parties who voiced their objections to the proposal – the high school, where he served as a teacher, and Teviot church, where he is a treasurer and trustee – he should have declared a non-pecuniary (not involving money) interest.

Mr Batten wrote to the council to lodge a complaint, one that was subsequently rejected. Now, he intends to bring the matter to the attention of the Local Government Ombudsman. “It’s not the end of it yet,” said Mr Batten, of Chay Blyth Place. “I intend to pursue it. He was a trustee and treasurer of Teviot Church. He didn’t take part in the kirk session [where the planning application was discussed] but he must have seen the paperwork to see that the church had objected to the planning. The school also objected, and he is something of a representative of the school.

“In my day as a Roxburgh District councillor, I would have had no part in the discussion, had no vote, and not brought the planning application down with a casting vote.”

Mr Smith insists he “acted honourably” and argued on his blog that most Hawick residents are likely to have had some association with the town’s high school. He added that neither he nor Teviot church had anything to gain or lose in the planning committee’s decision to reject the application.