Opposition voiced to plans for clean-up of old church site in Hawick

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson at the old church site.
Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson at the old church site.

A proposal to use Scottish Borders Council cash to clean-up a overgrown piece of land abandoned by a private landlord in Hawick has been branded an “insult to the tax-paying public” by one of the town’s councillors.

Councillors are being asked if they want to support the work at the old church site between Laing Terrace and Commercial Road.

Although the cost of the clean-up is less than £600, agreeing to the move would create a dangerous precedent, according to Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson.

He claims approval would send out the wrong message” to the public at a time when cash-strapped Scottish Borders Council is having to make to cutbacks to the frequency of grass-cutting across the Borders, particularly in cemeteries.

Mr Paterson said: “I think that the public will feel let down if we continue to spend this money on a privately-owned piece of land.

“Where does it all end? Are we going to be cutting the grass and cleaning up the vegetation of many other absentee landlords?

“I fear that this is creating a dangerous precedent.

“A lot of my constituents and people who live in the Hawick and Denholm ward are complaining about the state of council-owned grassed areas which are not getting cut for 20 days and much longer, and now they want to use council tax payers’ money to cut back the vegetation on a private individual’s land where there is no realistic prospect of the council being reimbursed,

“When you see some of the council-owned grassed areas are overgrown, areas like the Wee Haugh, I dread to think what it’s going to be like if we get a little rain.”

A council spokesman insisted the clean-up would not set a precedent as similar work had been carried out there before, however.

He said: “The potential small scheme would address concerns raised regarding the increasingly-overgrown condition of the old church site between Laing Terrace and Commercial Road, Hawick.

“It is not council-owned, but due to the fact that the site is in the ownership of an absent landlord, a clear-up was paid for by the council three or four years ago.

“Unfortunately, the landlord remains absent, and there is no available budget to pay for another clearance of the site, so the work has been priced up to allow it to be paid for from the Hawick and Denholm small schemes budget.

“The cost of the clearance of scrub and litter within the site, including its removal off site and disposal costs, along with the spraying of the ground-level scrub with herbicide is £552.

“This includes the hire of a cherry-picker vehicle to allow the removal of scrub growing on the wall adjacent to Commercial Road.”