Help at hand for Hawick and other Borders town centres

Hawick High Street.
Hawick High Street.

Help is at hand for town centre traders struggling to make ends meet.

Scottish Borders Council has agreed a town centre action plan to enable it to focus regeneration efforts where it believes they are most needed.

The three-year initiative will focus initially on Hawick to help it get back on its feet after being hit by the closures of several knitwear manufacturers and shops over recent years.

Jedburgh and then Eyemouth will be next in line for support after Hawick, followed by Duns, Selkirk, Kelso, Galashiels, Innerleithen, Peebles and Melrose.

Councillors agreed at the latest meeting of the authority’s executive committee to use a new town centre resilience index, including key statistics, to decide where resources should be targeted for maximum impact.

The rolling action plan will be reviewed and updated annually.

The council is taking a largely hands-off approach, hoping to enable businesses and the communities they serve to make positive changes and investment themselves and intervening only in circumstances where grants or advice are unavailable other than via the public sector.

Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell, the authority’s executive member for economic development, said: “It is critical that the council prioritises its resources to tackle key issues in our town centres, and this new method, using statistics to identify the health of our various town economies, will enable us to make the biggest difference.

“Through the Hawick action plan, working with partners including the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland, we are already working hard to tackle issues there.

“In Jedburgh, we have been working closely with the community and have recently submitted an application for a conservation area regeneration scheme to Historic Environment Scotland, following on from the success of the Selkirk scheme.

“This is a very competitive funding stream, and we are not guaranteed to be successful, but the excellent work between officers and key community groups has certainly given us the very best possible chance of securing what would be an exciting opportunity for Jedburgh.

“There are various elements in Eyemouth that we have been working towards for some time. However, through the new approach, we will be able to provide more dedicated resources, both in funding and officer time, to seek to make a long-term positive impact on the town.”

Gordon Henderson, senior development manager for Scotland at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The recognition of Scotland’s town centres and the vital role they play in supporting local economies is something we have been championing.

“This piece of work to look at 10 key Borders towns together in a single plan is a very welcome approach, and I’ll be watching its progress with interest.

“Our town centres must adapt with the times to ensure they remain relevant, and often this means alternatives to the old retail-only approach must be explored.”