RATS may soon start converging on the closed Haldanes supermarket in Kelso because fruit and vegetables were left to rot on the shelves after the store was locked last week, it has been claimed.
The shop in Roxburgh Street ceased trading a week after the 50 workers were notified by letter that administrators were being appointed.
Last week, TheSouthern reported on the bitterness among staff who found themselves having to work an extra week after receiving the letters confirming the firm was appointing administrators, in order to gain a week’s wages, despite having worked for a month.
The closure has also caused widespread concern among local councillors and Kelso business leaders as it means the only major grocery outlet close to the town centre is the Lidl store.
But this week, local MSP John Lamont and local Scottish Borders councillor Tom Weatherston have highlighted a number of new concerns raised by local residents in relation to the closed supermarket, including worries about rats.
Mr Lamont said the first concern is that the store is in danger of becoming an environmental health risk.
“I understand there is still fresh fruit and vegetables on the shelves of the shop and also the bins have not been collected.
“Given its location, if these problems are allowed to develop then it is likely that rats would move in to the site, causing significant problems for neighbouring residents and traders.”
Asked for a comment, Scottish Borders Council said its Environmental Health team was aware of the situation.
“Most of the stock was sold off when the premises closed last week, although there may be some stock/refuse left in or adjacent to the the premises,” said a spokesman. “We will keep an eye on the situation and liaise with the Co-op as necessary.”
But Kerry Yule, whose daughter is one of the workers paid off, says there have not been any cleaners in the store for two weeks.
“As well as fruit and vegetables left to rot, there is dairy produce still in the fridges,” she told TheSouthern. “The Tweed is not far from the back of the store and there will be a serious vermin problem if that stuff is not cleaned up, and soon.”
Community councillor John King, who runs a pet shop next door to the shut-up store, is also worried.
He stated: “There are often rats out the back because of the proximity of the river and the mill. This will definitely become a health hazard unless cleaned up soon.
“And what a waste of food – why couldn’t they have just even given it away instead of leaving it to rot?”
As well as the new health concerns, worries are increasing that unless the store is reopened in the near future, it will have a major impact on the vitality of the town centre.
Councillor King added: “This street has been dead since Haldanes closed. It was dead before because Haldanes was too expensive, but its certainly worse now.”
It was after the Co-op acquired the Somerfield chain in 2009, that competition rules forced it to divest itself of more that 20 Somerfield supermarkets, including the one in Kelso which went to Haldanes.
Both Haldanes and the Co-op are now emeshed in a bitter legal wrangle involving allegations of breaches of agreement and unpaid rent.
However, when contacted by TheSouthern this week, the Co-op refused to be drawn on the matter of the Roxburgh Street store, despite being told of growing local concerns.
Councillor Weatherston told TheSouthern: “I would hope the Co-op would respect the fact this is a big blow to Kelso and 50 jobs are very hard to replace.
“I have been contacted by other businesses in the area of Roxburgh Street which are already feeling the affect of this shop being empty and the footfall being well down.
“I hope we don’t end up with a legal dispute between Haldanes and the Co-op as this shop needs filling as soon as possible, and I would urge the Co-op to try and resolve this matter without delay to avoid any further damage to the town centre vitality.”
Mr Lamont says it is vital the Co-op finds a new occupier for the premises.
“It is in the interests of the Co-operative – who are responsible for the store – to take their time over finding a buyer to take on the property, as it would reduce the competition for their other store in the town,” he said.
“The store brings shoppers into the town centre, and neighbouring traders will suffer from the shop being closed.
“The Co-op needs to consider the wider economic welfare of the town, as well as the interests of the 50 staff who are waiting to see if there will be opportunities at any new store on the site. I have asked the Co-op for clarification on the future and contacted the administrators of Haldanes to ensure that former staff are getting what they are entitled to.”