Hawick would be given choice of being in or out of proposed national park

Looking down on Hawick Rugby ground, Mansfield Park from Hamilton Road.
Looking down on Hawick Rugby ground, Mansfield Park from Hamilton Road.

Hawick would be given the choice of being inside or outside the potential national park being proposed for the Borders, community councillors there have been told.

Though Hawick is outside the boundary for the proposed park currently being suggested, it has not yet been fixed, so it would be up to Teries to decide whether they would want their home town to be within or outwith it, a meeting heard.

Hawick Community Council was also reassured by campaigners that the proposed park would not add any further restrictions to planning permission applications.

An update on the campaign for Scotland’s third national park to be located in the Borders, to follow those for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs on the west coast and the Cairngorms in the eastern Highlands, was given by Malcolm Dickson and Marion-Jane Livingston.

“With Hawick, we originally drew the boundary here because we wanted to leave it open for residents and people interested in Hawick to be able to decide among themselves as to what they thought best,” said Mr Dickson.

“Hawick, as it is at the moment, on the edge of the national park, could either be in or ou,t and I think it is important that, as we decide, that the town’s people think about it.

“It’s obviously a beautiful landscape.

“It’s got a hugely strong cultural heritage and it’s a place that is proud of that cultural heritage, like every Borders town, but it’s a cultural heritage which is not stuck in the past. It’s something that is living in the people of all ages.”

The campaign group, is awaiting the results of a feasibility study and, once complete, they will be presented to Scottish Borders Council, possibly within the next few weeks.

The group argues that a proposed national park covering the former county of Roxburghshire would lead to improved paths and boost tourism.

Mr Dickson said the park would also support moves for the Borders Railway to be extended to Hawick rather than get in their way, saying: “For a railway going all the way through Hawick and further to Carlisle, it would be a complementary initiative to run alongside a national park campaign.

“The extension of the railway supports our campaign and vice versa.”

He added: “The national park authority would have a say in planning, but I think that can be kept to a very light hand and wouldn’t apply to all planning.

“It wouldn’t be a statutory consultee for planning applications within the national park area, it won’t add to the bureaucracy.”

He conceded that farmers will have concerns over planning permission applications for agricultural buildings but added: “I can’t see why a national park should restrict farmers, landowners or anyone else. I can’t see a reason for that.”

Cameron Knox, the community council’s vice chairman, said he feels that better transport links need to be in place before any progress could be made on moves potentially leading to more tourist traffic.

“The infrastructure of the Borders’ roads is deplorable. That should be sorted before we have a national park,” he said.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson believes that support is growing for the proposed park and that it could give the economy of the region a welcome boost, however, saying: “I think as this goes on and as it gathers momentum, as people get more into this, I think then they are saying yes, it is time for a change.

“We can’t stand still, and I think this could be positive for the creation of jobs and for rejuvenating the economy of the Borders.”