Concern at delays to work starting on a Hawick business hub on former department store site

Concern has been expressed that progress on a £2.6m business hub in Hawick has been delayed again.

Vision of how hub will look.
Vision of how hub will look.

The former Almstrong's department store in Oliver Place has been flattened, alongside two old church buildings in adjoining Teviot Crescent, to make way for the new complex.

The site is earmarked for a new three-storey building, providing office space for up to 17 small businesses, potentially yielding up to 25 jobs.

Funding for the project was agreed by the Scottish Government back in June 2017.

Demolition started in December 2019 but was delayed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A contractor is still yet to be appointed and building work is not expected to start until later this year.

At a meeting of Scottish Borders Council's executive committee this week, Hawick councillor George Turnbull expressed concern at the delays saying "he would have liked the job finished and operational and we haven't even started yet."

Mr Turnbull said: "Obviously the project has been delayed yet again. That money was granted by the Scottish Government and the demolition of the old building was done and has been amended a couple of times to make it suitable for purpose but now we have had to rethink again because there was to be a tender before Christmas past and now there is an extension to the end of 22/23. It seems a long, long extension to do this project. It seems to have been going on for years and obviously residents in the area are getting quite frustrated.

"This money was allocated many years ago, long before Covid-19. A lot of people would have liked to see the job finished and operational and we haven't even started yet."

Mr Turnbull was informed that delay had been caused by errors in tenders submitted by contractors and issues over pricing materials and the supply chain.

However, members were informed that a contractor was expected to be appointed soon.

Scottish Borders Council leader Mark Rowley said: "I think it's a bit of an exaggeration to say we haven't even started yet. It has been a troubled project. I recall that the planning process took longer than we hoped. We then had an asbestos issue that added complexity and I believe we are using part of the site for flood protection."

Before becoming a store, the Oliver Crescent site was home to St John's Church, opened in 1880, with a hall added in 1885.

It merged with St Andrew's and Eastbank churches to form the town's Trinity Kirk in 1958.

The building was then sold and partially demolished in 1960, reopening as Arthur Armstrong's department store in 1962, later renamed Almstrong's.

In more recent years, it has been derelict and boarded up.