SBC stung into action after criticism of empty shops

Scottish Borders Council acted quickly last week following criticism of shabbyretail premises in the town.

And despite saying it has a smaller property maintenance budget than other Scottish councils, work to smarten up the property at 6a Howegate will take place before the end of March.

This has delighted local Councillor George Turnbull, who said: “This is excellent news, and hopefully further money can be found to address any problems at other properties. I am delighted that this has been acted upon quickly.”

Following last week’s Teviot and Liddesdale Area Forum, Alastair Finnie, one of the council’s five neighbourhood managers, highlighted the problem to officials at council headquarters.

In an email to Andrew Drummond-Hunt, head of property and facilities at SBC, Mr Finnie wrote: “At the T&L Area Forum on Tuesday evening there was great concern raised regarding the appearance of many of the properties in and around the centre of Hawick.

“It was stated that there were properties owned by SBC which could benefit from a clean-up.

“Shop owners were present and suggested that the council’s requirements are that the owners keep their property in a good condition and that we do not appear to be satisfying that condition ourselves.”

Responding to this, Mr Drummond-Hunt said: “The council has one of the lowest local authority property maintenance budgets in Scotland at around £7 per sqm per annum, compared with a 2009 Scottish Local Authority average of around £11 per sqm. As you can imagine, it is really quite a struggle to keep the council’s premises in serviceable condition. What we do need to recognise, though, is that from the maintenance perspective, we are running on a “low tank of fuel” and need to prioritise accordingly.

“However, I have managed to find other funding for cleaning the windows and to undertake a redecoration of the shop front at 6a Howegate.”