Marshall vents Burnfoot site fury

SCOTTISH Borders Council has been accused of dragging its feet over the Burnfoot South development.

And local councillor Stuart Marshall fears the delay could have serious repercussions on the town’s beleaguered economy.

The Hawick and Denholm ward member revealed this week he has been approached by two unnamed businesses, one wishing to set up in Hawick and the other “desperately” looking to relocate.

He said: “My fears are that with little or no units available to them, they will have no alternative but to look outwith the area to start up and that would be a very disappointing blow for the town.”

The site in Burnfoot, opposite Barrie Knitwear, was purchased by the council in March last year for £85,000 as part of a Borders-wide project, with similar schemes undertaken in Coldstream, Duns and Lauder. Funding for all three projects – approximately £3million – has been secured mainly from the European Regional Development Fund.

The intention was to make the area ready for interested companies to move straight in, by taking care of access, drainage and utilities.

Richard Sweetnam, SBC’s economic development manager, said: “The council’s role was to acquire the site and service it, because in the current climate no developer would do so. By doing so we have removed some of the risk and lowered the barriers for development.

“Bearing in mind the longevity of this type of project and the current market, when things pick up in the property market then the council is ready to respond immediately by releasing this site and other sites in the Borders.”

But 18 months since its purchase by the local authority, a contractor to carry out the work still hasn’t been appointed and it is understood may not be in position before spring 2012 at the earliest.

Councillor Marshall said: “I am furious at the length of time that this development is taking.

“We must keep the momentum going with this development. The council and utility companies must not be allowed to drag their feet on this site.”

And chairman of Burnfoot Community Council, Richard Knight, agreed it was “disappointing” to see the length of time it was taking to progress the site.

He said: “We are very keen to see that these units get built quickly to help to regenerate Burnfoot Industrial Estate after the loss of Slumberdown.

“It is great to see a local company moving into the old Slumberdown factory [Turnbull & Scott] and encouraging further employment in the town. We feel that these new units at Burnfoot South will help complement the area and create further opportunities for employment.

“We would like the delays to stop and the groundwork to finally start. The quicker they get built the quicker they can get filled and create employment. It’s the ideal place for them.”