Hawick fingers crossed over lottery bid

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HERITAGE Lottery Fund chiefs look set to dish out £2million to develop Wilton Lodge Park.

The project at the 107-acre Hawick parkland beat off competition from rival developments across Scotland to gain a first-round pass.

The bid by Friends of Wilton Lodge Park has received £100,000 development funding and now has two years to compete for the full £2million award.

The proposals include rebuilding the bandstand which once stood in the park, and restoring the war memorial and the Macnee fountain, built in 1905.

The redundant café building will be conserved and extended, and horticultural training and education programmes will be provided for Teries.

Hawick’s history of rugby and motorbike racing – with memorials already dedicated to Steve Hislop and Jimmy Guthrie in the park – will be celebrated.

Hawick councillor Jock Houston said: “This is tremendous news, a boost to the town and a real tribute to all the hard work put in by the Friends of Wilton Lodge Park and Jason Hedley, SBC’s head of parks.”

Fellow Hawick councillor George Turnbull added that the first-round pass was “very encouraging”.

SBC has invested £50,000 in the project, with a second-round application due to be made after the development phase in 2011, which will see further consultations and opportunities for stakeholders and the people of Hawick to comment and take part in the project.

A successful second-stage bid could lead to work beginning in 2013 or 2014.

Councillor Len Wyse, SBC’s executive member for environmental services, said: “This is excellent news for the Borders and the town of Hawick.

“This reflects all that is good about the region, seeing communities working together to achieve shared goals.

“I hope to join in the celebrations for the 500th year of the Common Riding in the restored park in 2014 following a successful stage-two application.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund has also guaranteed more than £2.5million to redevelop Duthie Park in Aberdeen, while Rouken Glen Park near Glasgow will receive £2million if it passes stage two.

Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “This is good news not just for the individuals who have worked hard to develop these projects, but for the hundreds of thousands of people that use and treasure these parks.

“Our parks are a wonderful legacy from our ancestors which are enjoyed by all ages and are often a community’s only available green space for recreation and leisure. That’s why HLF is committed to protecting these precious places.

“Through our Parks for People programme, parks across Scotland are being turned around, encouraging more people through the gates, forging new links with communities, reducing crime and often kick-starting further local regeneration.”

It is estimated 12,000 visitors visit Wilton Lodge Park each year.

The park was bought by Hawick Town Council at the tail end of the 19th century for £14,000. Suggestions over the years to improve the park have included building a ‘Swiss Lake’ and gardens, and converting the house for use as a hydropathic spa, hotel or swimming baths, none of which ever got off the ground.

The house stood empty for a number of years after its purchase by the town council, other than a short spell when it served as a private school known as Wilton Lodge Academy.

It was turned into Wilton Lodge Museum, now known as Hawick Museum, and was formally opened in October 1910.

The museum’s centenary this year was signalled with an exhibition of paintings from four generations of the McNairn family in the Scott Gallery, which was added to the museum in 1975.