Volunteer tradesmen to the rescue of Walkerburn social club

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VOLUNTEERS have rallied to the call of a Walkerburn social club which faced losing its licence because of noise complaints, writes Andrew Keddie.

The revocation, suspension or variation of the drinks permit of the Henry Ballantyne Memorial Institute, known locally as the HB Club, were all options for the Scottish Borders Licensing Board which, last October, was asked to review the premises licence.

It followed complaints from a neighbour who purchased the renovated upstairs floor of the building in Caberston Road from the club’s management committee two years ago.

According to licensing standards officer Ian Tunnah there had been “various complaints about noise nusisance”. Despite the club banning live music, he said the upstairs residents had continued to complain.

He cited “general noise such as doors banging, loud voices and even dominoses ‘chapping’ being clearly audiible and causing a disturbance, particularly into the early hours at weekends”.

And Mr Tunnah, seeking a review of the club’s licence, concluded: “Relationships between club officials and the complainers appear to have completely broken down.”

The board decided to continue its consideration of his report, but the story elicited several letters to TheSouthern from villagers angry that a facility which was opened by its eponymous benefactor in 1904 to “provide education and entertainment for mill workers and their families” and was later donated to Walkerburn, should be under threat from a single complainer.

The correspondents stressed the important social function of the club – apart from the rugby club, the only licensed premises in the village – and claimed it was the responsibility of the complainer, not the club, to address soundproofing issues.

But a spokeswoman for the club admitted this week that the committee had unwittingly been at fault for not ensuring that a building warrant had been secured for the renovation ahead of the sale of the upstairs premises. And that document, according to Scottish Borders Council’s building control department, will not be granted until it is satisfied that adequate fireproofing and sound proofing measures are put in place.

Realising that any decisions on its trading hours could see the club go to the wall, an army of local tradesmen and helpers descended on the premises at the weekend.

“We had five joiners, a plasterer and eight youthful labourers on site, working tirelessly to ensure we meet obligations which we were genuinely unaware of at the time,” said the spokeswoman.

“We estimate the work they carried out would have cost at least £12,000 so we are extremely grateful to the volunteers for their time, skill and labour. There is still a wee bit to be done, but this will be completed as soon as possible. Above all, it shows the commitment of our community to keep this vitally important village facility up and running.”

Local councillor and licensing board chairman Gavin Logan praised the volunteers.

“It shows what can be achieved when a community comes together,” he said. “When the work is completed to the satisfaction of building control, then the noise problem should be solved. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, but if this is achieved, it will remove the need for the board to review the club’s licence: a win, win situation for everyone concerned.”