Domino effect could leave club chapping as noise complaints go to licensing board

Henry Ballantyne Memorial Institute at Walkerburn.
Henry Ballantyne Memorial Institute at Walkerburn.
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IT was built in 1904 to “provide education and entertainment for mill workers and their family” and was donated to the village of Walkerburn in 2000.

But now the handsome red sandstone Henry Ballantyne Memorial Institute is facing an even bigger threat to its existence than the closure of the last mill in the village in 1988.

Ironically it is a decision by the licensed social club’s management committee more than two years ago, driven by financial necessity, to sell the upstairs floor of the building in Caberston Road for residential use which has put its future in doubt.

A report that had been due to go before tomorrow’s meeting of Scottish Borders Licensing Board highlights the tensions that have developed between club officials and the family who bought the first floor flat and the club’s former kitchen and snooker room to develop into another residential unit.

The numerous complaints from these residents about noise from the club below has prompted Scottish Borders Council’s licensing standards officer Ian Tunnah to ask elected members of the board to review the premises licence of the institute, known locally as the HB Club.

If councillors agree, they will have four options: to issue a written warning to licence holder Mags Henderson, to vary the terms of the licence, which allows drink to be sold till 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, to suspend it or even to revoke it.

“Various complaints, mainly around noise nuisance from the occupants of the residential property above … have been repeatedly made over the past year,” reports Mr Tunnah.

“During this time, measures have been taken by the club to try and lessen any noise. This has ranged from improving the insulation between the properties to having no amplified music.

“Despite these measures, the residents continue to complain of noise nuisance and disturbance, with general noise such as doors banging, loud voices and even dominoes ‘chapping’ being clearly audible and causing a disturbance. particularly into the early hours at weekends.”

Mr Tunnah says that despite the involvement of several agencies, including environmental health, the fire service and representatives of NHS Borders, none of the measures taken had completely resolved the issue of noise.

“Relationships between the club’s officials and the complainers appear to have completely broken down with the officials apparently unwilling to make further alterations to the property in order to overcome the apparent shortcomings with the building’s structure to prevent noise nuisance,” writes Mr Tunnah, who reveals that the last official complaint was lodged on Saturday, August 17, when an accordionist was performing in the members’ bar.

He warns that if it fails to consider the request for a premises licence review, the board could be seen as failing to address its legal duties.

However, TheSouthern has learned that consideration of Mr Tunnah’s report has been postponed to the November meeting of the board because of the unavailability of the club’s solicitor, licensing expert Janet Hood, and Ms Henderson.

The complaining residents are not named in Mr Tunnah’s report, but a family member told us: “The noise from the club had been a real nightmare, going on into the early hours at weekends, for over a year and now we must endure it for a further month. It is sad that it has come to this.”