Concern mounting that Hawick park cafe might not be open in time for summer season

Youngsters Aiden Middlemass and Ellen Dobbie adding their signatures to the Wilton Lodge Park cafe structure as an alternative to a time capsule.
Youngsters Aiden Middlemass and Ellen Dobbie adding their signatures to the Wilton Lodge Park cafe structure as an alternative to a time capsule.

Concern is growing that an operator has still not been appointed to run a centrepiece facility created as part of the £3.6m revamp of Hawick’s Wilton Lodge Park.

Work is expected to be complete on the new cafe in the park by Wednesday, May 31, but a lease-holder to run the facility has not been appointed yet, leading to fears it could still be standing empty this summer.

Work under way on the cafe.

Work under way on the cafe.

The town’s new honorary provost, Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer, said that delay was “hitting townsfolk and visitors hard”, and he called on Scottish Borders Council to “pull out all the stops” to get the cafe, built by Esh Border Construction, up and running as soon as possible.

Mr McAteer, an independent, said: “While we are told that the Wilton Park cafe building is likely to be completed by May 31, I am concerned that the operator’s contract does not appear to have been awarded, and that must mean even further delay before it’s opened to the public.

“This continual delay is really hitting townsfolk and visitors hard, and it is essential that all the stops are pulled out to bring this new facility to life.

“The park is without doubt seeing a resurgence in visitors, and they must be provided with restaurant and toilet facilities if we are to maintain this very positive momentum.”

The building was signed off by town schoolchildren in December last year.

As an alternative to a time capsule, Stirches Primary pupil Aiden Middlemass and Trinity Primary’s Ellen Dobbie of Trinity Primary added their signatures to section of the structure before it was covered in cladding.

The park has benefited hugely from the National Lottery-funded work carried out on it over the last few years, and the new £300,000 playpark at Wilton Lodge is proving popular with the public despite being hit by vandal attacks soon after it opened in March.

Patrols by police of the area around the new playpark have been stepped up, last week’s meeting of Hawick Community Council was told.

A council spokesperson said a decision on a preferred bidder for the cafe is expected soon.

He added: “The preferred bidder for the cafe tenancy is expected to be announced imminently.

“Once confirmed, the operator can commence the required permissions, certificates and fit-out of the cafe.

“Once the preferred bidder is announced, they will also be able to provide the timing for the opening.”