Kelso traders desperate for Haldanes site to be revived

IT IS vital that the former Haldanes supermarket premises in Kelso’s Roxburgh Street are reopened to halt the fall in the level of trade business that area of the town is experiencing, it has been claimed.

The concerns over the impact of the closed store, not just on shops in Roxburgh Street but also on those in the nearby town centre, were raised at the January meeting of the town’s community council last week.

All 50 Haldanes staff lost their jobs in June after receiving letters saying the company was appointing administrators. This was despite an assurance given to TheSouthern just two months before the closure that the Kelso store would definitely continue trading.

The Haldanes group bought most of its stores from the Co-operative group, which was forced to sell some shops by the Office of Fair Trading after it acquired Somerfield.

Speaking at the community council last week, local Scottish Borders councillor Tom Weatherston (Con) said he had been contacted by several shopkeepers in Roxburgh Street about the plight of their businesses.

“They said they are really feeling the pinch since Haldanes closed. They need that store opened again and occupied by somebody to help bring that street back to life,” said Mr Weatherston.

“We really need that store up and running for everyone’s benefit – for the good of the whole town centre.”

However, Mr Weatherston said he could not see the Co-op – which owns the lease on the Roxburgh Street store building – agreeing to one possibility, already floated, that a weekly market could use the closed store’s car park.

“I can’t see the Co-op agreeing to someone using the car park if they are trying to find someone else to take on the lease,” he said.

According to Mr Weatherston, the Co-op, which operates a store under its own brand in the town’s Highcroft area, still has 24 years of its lease on the Roxburgh Street site still to run, at a considerable rent each year.

He revealed that the premises in Roxburgh Street are owned by a London-based company, Threadneedle Investments.

Provost Fiona Scott was also worried. “It is a desperate situation for the town centre to have no major supermarket,” she said.

The town’s Chamber of Trade held its monthly meeting last Wednesday and its chairman, Bruce Roberts, who also attended the previous night’s community council meeting, agreed there were definite worries about the situation.

“People are very concerned about the impact on trade not just in Roxburgh Street, but the town in general. The general consensus is that there has been a definite drop in footfall since Haldanes closed,” he told TheSouthern this week.

However, confusion seems to surround the circumstances of the empty Roxburgh Street store. The Co-op said that the lease for the premises remained on the market and there was no restriction on who took it over.

This seems to conradict information obtained by Mr Weatherston, who told us: “I have spoken to the Competition Commission in London and they say this property must be moved on as a supermarket, and could not be a carpet shop or anything like that.

“The thing that does not make sense here is, if there is no restriction on the lease, then the Co-op can go into the shop themselves. But if the Competition Commission says they can’t, then obviously they have to move it on to another supermarket as the rules clearly state.”