Planning Minister Derek Mackay was left in no doubt about the problems facing Hawick High Street during a visit to the town yesterday.
That is according to Hawick Community Council chairperson Marion Short, who has hailed the special meeting and tour of the town’s empty shops with the Holyrood bigwig as “very positive”.
The Government and Planning Minister had been invited to Hawick by local MSP Paul Wheelhouse in response to concerns surrounding recent shop closure announcements and the formation of the new High Street sub-committee. And after an early morning meeting and presentation in the Heart of Hawick yesterday (Thursday), ahead of a walk along the entire length of each side of the street, Mrs Short stated: “I was pleasantly surprised by how well the visit went. Mr Mackay seemed to really listen to us and we all felt quite upbeat.”
And having grabbed the attention of the Minister responsible for business rates, Mrs Short added: “Mr Mackay paid real attention to the fact that the shops in O’Connell Street, Bourtree Place, and Oliver Place were all full and that it is high rates causing problems.”
She said they were also given an assurance of future funding advice from Mr Mackay and two Holyrood representatives who were also in attendance, which could help towards renovating empty premises and tracking down owners of buildings ‘To Let’.
Mr Mackay said afterwards: “Hawick serves as a prime example of a town that is facing challenges in terms of activity in its town centre, and that is why I was so keen to meet with local traders and community figures to hear about these issues for myself, and discuss ways forward for the town.
“The Scottish Government is determined that our town centres should be vibrant, attractive and safe places where local people and visitors alike want to spend their time and money.”
Mr Mackay also highlighted a new Community Empowerment Bill, and new legislation to tighten rules on property maintenance that will also help maintain and regenerate town centres.”