Ambulance station row rumbles on

FORMER council leader Drew Tulley believes the local authority should have done more to ensure the Borders General Hospital ambulance station plans were approved.

However, a member of the planning committee has accused the Scottish Ambulance Service of failing to listen to the concerns of council officials.

The proposal by the SAS at a site north west of the hospital was refused last week, as Scottish Borders Council cited the removal of woodland and the scenic affect on the Eildon Hills, while there were also road issues.

Planners said they voiced their concerns with SAS representatives – who claimed quicker response times was the motivation behind its chosen site – but the frontline service still went ahead with its application.

An SAS spokesman told TheSouthern last week it was now considering its options for the new station, which is due to replace the current Galashiels depot.

But Mr Tulley felt building a modern facility for an emergency service was more than important scenic issues.

He told last week’s Galashiels Community Council: “It seems a great pity that the application was turned down.

“The site had easy access to the Melrose bypass. I am very disappointed with the decision taken by SBC.

“If you call 999 you want that service to respond as quickly as possible, you don’t want a detour of the Eildons.

“People in Melrose used to say the sight of the white buildings of Langlee was a disgrace.

“But I think the people of Langlee could say the same thing about the housing now sited on the former Dingleton hospital below the Eildons.

“Every effort should be made to accommodate the emergency services.”

However, Galashiels councillor and planning committee member Bill White insisted no-one on the 13-man panel wanted to throw out the application.

He added: “Everyone agreed it should be at the BGH.

“There were six potential areas to site the station (in the BGH estate) but even as late as October the planners were going back to the ambulance service to talk about the problems with the junction to the Melrose bypass.

“The planners tried to get this message across to the ambulance service but they didn’t seem to listen. They wanted it there at all costs. If that had been a garage everyone would have been up in arms.

“We had to make that decision but I was very disappointed about the whole thing.”

On the matter of the BGH bypass junction, Mr Tulley added: “It should have been made into a roundabout – you very rarely see accidents at roundabouts and that would have saved a lot of bother.”

NHS Borders have admitted any delay to the opening of a new station at the BGH will put back its plans to build a new £1.8 million health centre at Roxburgh Street, which is due to expand onto the current Galashiels ambulance depot in 2013/14.

The move is also required as SAS say the Galashiels station is out of date, with paramedics struggling to reach life threatening calls from rural areas within the national target of eight minutes.