Mart site remains key to Newtown facelift plans

THERE is still eight weeks remaining for the public to have their say over plans to transform Newtown St Boswells, writes Mark Entwistle.

Scottish Borders Council planning committee last month approved a 12-week consultation process for its draft planning framework for the village.

Newtown has already been identified as a focus for strategic development in the central Borders and the proposed expansion and regeneration of the village will help to meet SBC’s Structure Plan requirement for housing land which is now allocated in the adopted Consolidated Local Plan.

The draft framework looks at proposed growth across a number of sites and aims to give a clear direction to the development and regeneration of Newtown as a whole.

An independent study by architects came up with a vision of an improved village centre, streets, lanes, squares and greens that would allow an enlarged Newtown to “hold its own” with other comparable towns and villages.

There has already been on-going discussions with the local community, interested landowners, developers and government agencies.

However, the lynchpin for the whole project is and always has been the successful relocation of the livestock mart in the village centre which is operated by auctioneering firm John Swan & Sons.

It is now more than five years since the company revealed its proposals to build a new market facility on the opposite side of the A68 trunk road from Swan’s current historic site.

The move would free up the firm’s existing sprawling nine-hectare mart complex – established to take advantage of the railway by John Swan and his two sons in 1870 – for 220 houses for which outline planning consent has been granted.

A licensed restaurant, visitor centre and retail outlets for farm produce were included in the project to create a cluster of rural businesses on the 20-acre site, which is surrounded by woodland and used for grazing and occasional equestrian events.

When revealed, the project received enthusiastic backing from the local community, with many agreeing the village urgently needed some kind of catalyst to spark regeneration and development.

Outline planning consents have already been approved by Scottish Borders Council for the development of the existing mart and the construction of the new one.

Back in 2006, Swan’s managing director Jack Clark reckoned it could take three years for the development to come on stream, but a global economic meltdown in the intervening period has not helped.

Speaking this week, Mr Clark, told TheSouthern that Swan’s was in the process of finalising the planning application for the new market.

“We’re in discussions with the planners on that – we already have outline consent. We do have prospective tenants for the ancillary retail units, but are still finalising legal agreements.

“As I have said all along, the regeneration of Newtown depends on the relocation of the market. The current world economic situation has not helped, but it is giving us time to get all agreements finalised.

“As a listed company on the London Stock Exchange, there are various issues which have to be addressed.

“It is a very much a case of watch this space. But no relocation of the market, no regeneration of Newtown St Boswells – it’s that simple.”