A VANDAL attack on Hawick’s historic 1514 Memorial, known universally as The Horse, was described by police last November as “difficult to comprehend for local people”.
The flag on the landmark statue at the confluence of High Street and Oliver Place was snapped off in the incident and a major enquiry was launched.
The police issued an appeal to the public, conceded that the memorial played a pivotal part in the customs and traditions of the town, and called the vandalism “mindless”.
Court proceedings are ongoing after the arrest of a local man in connection with the crime.
But this week Scottish Borders Council moved to protect the symbolic edifice from further harm by seeking planning consent to install two state-of-the-art CCTV surveillance cameras on buildings at either side of the memorial: at 4 Oliver Place and 1 Brougham Place.
The former, which houses Turnbull’s delicatessen and coffee shop with three flats above, is a category C listed building, while the latter – once the home of the Green Café but now unoccupied on the ground floor – although not listed – is in the town’s conservation area. And it was the impact of the cameras on the historic built heritage which concentrated the minds of SBC’s planning committee when it met to consider the CCTV bid on Monday.
But councillors concluded that the installations, both five metres above ground and trained directly on the memorial, would not detract from the appearance of the conservation area, nor affect the amenity of people living and working in neighbouring properties.
Not surprisingly, given the level of outrage at the vandalism, there were no objections from members of the Hawick public to the application.
“I have to report that all six Hawick councillors are in favour of this and had actually hoped that the cameras would be in place by now, which would have been the case if a listed building was not involved,” said committee member Councillor Ron Smith (Hawick and Hermitage).
“The new cameras will give wider security coverage across what is known as the town’s central square ... and I hope there will be no opposition to this.”
A report by local planning officer Deborah Chalmers also noted: “The use of CCTV cameras is legally regulated ... therefore, it is only appropriate to consider whether or not the legal uses of the cameras raise any planning concerns.”
Members felt any such concerns were outweighed by the public benefit of the cameras and, subject to technical conditions, including an insistence that all fittings into the stonework should be non-ferrous and thus unlikely to rust, unanimously approved the application.
The Horse commemorates the skirmish in 1514 at Hornshole, two miles east of the town, where a party of encamped English soldiers were routed by Hawick youths who captured their flag.