Plea goes out to save primary school from demolition

Hawick Councillor Davie Paterson at St Margaret's RC Primary School, Hawick
Hawick Councillor Davie Paterson at St Margaret's RC Primary School, Hawick

A bid to demolish a former Hawick primary school over fears it is at risk of vandalism has been dismissed as a “red herring” excuse.

Scottish Borders Council wants the old St Margaret’s RC primary school in Buccleuch Terrace flattened to stop it becoming an eyesore.

The school closed last summer as a result of falling numbers attending, and its remaining pupils switched to non-denominational schools nearby.

The council has applied to itself to demolish the building and one suggestion is that the land could be used to provide parking for a new housing development at the former Peter Scott factory site nearby.

That move has been met with a measure of scepticism from Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson.

He fears the local authority is using unfounded vandalism concerns as an excuse for selling the land off to a developer.

Mr Paterson has questioned why no elected members have been consulted over the plans and why a community suggestion that the building be converted into an arts centre has not been acted upon.

Meanwhile, Colin McGrath, chairman of the community council network in the Borders, believes the case is another example of the authority failing to involve the community in its decision-making processes.

Mr Paterson said: “How many incidents of vandalism have there been at St Margaret’s since it was closed? I have not heard of any. There have been several examples of vandalism at Burnfoot school and that is occupied. Does this mean we should close Burnfoot? The vandalism claim is just being used as a red herring. The building is structurally sound, why demolish it?

“It was my understanding that the Scottish Borders was trying to encourage local groups to use the former primary school for various things. I was shocked to read that the school is to be demolished when this has never been discussed with the local members. One suggestion put forward was to use the building for arts studios. Why has that not been considered?

“Is it possible the council want to demolish to make money when they sell the land to a developer? I would dearly love to know when this was discussed at St Boswells?”

Mr McGrath said new government rules are now in place to force councils to consult with the public over such decisions.

He added: “I’m sure this building could be used for something else. The council is not going to be allowed to do what they are doing. Anything the council gets involved with now the community is an equal partnership. That’s what the law is, equal partnerships.”

A spokesman for Scottish Borders Council declined to respond to the claims.

However, a council report from officers says demolition would prevent it from being vandalised and becoming a risk to the public.

It adds: “It is considered that, given its location, the building is of little or no townscape value and there are concerns that if left unoccupied, there is potential for damage and vandalism.”