Historic Scotland offers advice to Kelso Legion on disabled access

The Royal British Legion, Kelso
The Royal British Legion, Kelso

HISTORIC Scotland has offered to provide advice and assistance to the Kelso branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland, which has been struggling to gain consent to create a disabled access at its premises in the town’s Roxburgh Street.

At last week’s June meeting of Kelso Community Council, vice-chairman John Bassett – who also happens to be the current chairman of the town’s branch of the Legion – flagged up the continuing problems the veterans organisation was having over disabled access.

“It seems that Historic Scotland will not allow a disabled access to be built at the premises because it is listed,” Councillor Bassett told the meeting.

“We’ve tried loads of times with no luck,” said Mr Bassett who also expressed disappointment that the local Legion clubrooms had not made it onto the list of buildings being given priority for improvement work under the Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) currently under way.

Colin Gilmour, THI project officer, said he would look into the omission.

However, on being contacted by TheSouthern this week, Historic Scotland said it had yet to be consulted on the issue.

A spokeswoman told us: “Historic Scotland works closely with councils and applicants to incorporate appropriate disability access arrangements to historic buildings and we are aware that there are proposals to address this at the Royal British Legion premises in Kelso.

“We would be happy to offer preliminary advice and would offer formal comments when the application is submitted to us.”

On hearing of the government built heritage agency’s comments, Mr Bassett said it was, hopefully, encouraging news.

“Our premises used to house the town’s library and museum, and because the property is listed we can’t add anything to it in the shape of a new access.

“We’ve tried so many times without luck. And when we’ve enquired about Lottery funding, we’ve always been told we won’t get anything because the premises are listed and we won’t be allowed to alter them.”

Mr Bassett says it would not be possible to install a disabled access ramp at the front of the building without extending the pavement by almost a metre-and-a-half into the roadway.

However, there is another access from Chalkheugh Terrace. “We can get a car up to that area and it would be an easy place to put in a disabled access,” explained Mr Bassett. “It would certainly make life a bit easier for quite a few of our members.”

Contacted this week, Scottish Borders Council said no formal planning application had been submitted yet for the creation of an access, but some initial discussions had taken place.

Built as the Modern Library in 1795, the building housing the Legion clubrooms was constructed over two levels, with the books on the ground floor and the librarian’s house in the basement.

The original front door, flanked by coupled columns, was reached by a flight of steps.