Townsfolk and visitors will have to do without a cafe at Wilton Lodge Park for a second successive summer, after it was revealed that work on the new facility is behind schedule.
It had been expected that the new attraction, part of the Heritage Lottery and Scottish Borders Council-funded £3.64million regeneration of the park, would be fully operational for the summer season, but Tuesday night’s Teviot and Liddesdale Area Forum meeting heard that it could be April 2017 before the new cafe is up and running.
News of the delay, which was relayed by park regeneration manager Scott Castle, met with a backlash from local councillors who expressed their concerns and disappointment over another missed tourist season and called for interim measures to be put in place.
Mr Castle said the procurement process was taking longer than he had hoped and went on: “I know it’s frustrating for everyone in Hawick and that they’d have liked to have seen the cafe [open] in early summer ... but we will have the cafe and [new] bridge by the end of the summer, but this will be too late for the cafe in terms of being operational, so it may be that the cafe doesn’t open until the following April.”
Councillor Stuart Marshall said: “I know there will be a lot of angry and disappointed people in Hawick. We’re going to miss another tourist season, and I’m hoping we leave no stone unturned in securing a business up there so we have got something to offer visitors to the park [in 2016].”
Councillor Watson McAteer asserted: “What happened to on time and on budget? – that’s critical in this. There is still a lot of uncertainty, and there is very little that has been said that really fills us with a lot confidence that it [the opening of the cafe] is actually going to happen at a [set] time, and I’d really like to see that pinned down.
Mr Castle said a contractor was in place and that due process would take a couple of weeks.
He added: “To give you confidence ... there’s nothing in my professional experience to give me concern that the contractor won’t then go on and deliver it.”
Councillor Davie Paterson said: “I’ve been at this ‘game’ a long time and I’ve never been so disappointed in all my life. Surely to goodness we have to have somebody in there for this season.”
With the issue opened up to the public gallery, Hawick Community Council vice-chair Cameron Knox asked Mr Castle: “Once a contractor is appointed, would there be an acceleration in the programme?” Mr Castle said he couldn’t promise anything, but assured Mr Knox that the contractor will want to finish the job as quickly as possible.
Chairman George Turnbull thanked Mr Castle for his update, but lamented that it wasn’t “better news”.