Insurance company staff in Kelso have been given the go-ahead to move to a more central location.
Borders Insurance Brokers has operated in the town for 35 years, and for the last year it has been based in Oven Wynd, near Ednam House Hotel.
That’s remote from the centre of town and difficult to access for customers, so the company submitted a planning application to relocate to a former retail outlet at 23 to 25 Bridge Street occupied until a year ago by ladieswear shop Liba.
That move has now been approved by Scottish Borders Council planners despite being out of kilter with the authority’s policy of retaining retail premises within the town centre.
Kelso councillors Tom Weatherston and Euan Robson both offered their support for the change of use.
Mr Weatherston said: “I think the time has come to show some flexibility with this property as the owner has tried very hard to market the space as a retail space without success.
“I don’t see any advantage of having an empty shop while waiting for retail interest when this has been tried. How long do you wait?”
“I would love to see more retail shops in Kelso, but I think we have to be realistic and accept this is not always possible.”
Mr Robson added: “This old shop has lain empty for over a year, and it would be excellent to get it back into use.”
In a report to councillors, assistant planning officer Euan Calvert says: “Local members have highlighted that this use will make a positive contribution to footfall, and I acknowledge this fact.
“Workers and clients of the business will contribute to public activity at the end of Bridge Street.
“Kelso is performing better than other Borders towns when considering footfall rates, and I am satisfied that this change of use will not set a precedent and will allow further research into the changing rates of footfall in Kelso.”
The firm plans to employ six people at its future home, one more than its current complement of five