Fears that dry rot could spread through Jedburgh’s town centre have led to calls for a dangerous building there to be pulled to the ground and fast.
That message was sent out loud and clear at Jedburgh Community Council’s meeting on Tuesday as it discussed the scaffolding-clad building at the corner of Exchange Street and High Street, an eyesore blighting the town centre since June 2015.
Financial disputes over work to the building, now deemed unsafe and riddled with dry rot, meant a 40-week-long schedule of repair work, due to start in June, ground to a halt months ago.
And with the works showing no sign of recommencing, townsfolk now fear the rot will spread, with some believing it is already present in adjoining buildings including the old council offices in Exchange Street and the former Barnardo’s charity shop on High Street.
Community councillor Brian Woods said: “It’s a creeping sickness, and we have got to halt it. The general opinion in the town is to take it to the floor.
“Leave the fascia as it is and rebuild it internally.”
Business owner Sharlene Lunn, whose hair salon has been hidden behind a works container in Exchange Street since April, added: “It’s absolutely disgusting that things have got to this stage.
“My fear is that it’s spreading and it’s spreading fast.
“It’s absolutely shocking that our beautiful town is being affected like this.”
The scaffold, believed to have cost around £220,000 to date, was extended in June, reducing traffic in High Street to a one-way single lane, but with the council now removing the cabin reviewing traffic management arrangements, it’s left residents asking if, and when, work will start again.
“Them taking away the container and fencing is good news for me, but not for the town,” Sharlene Lunn added.
“If they are taking it away, when is it going to come back? When will work start again?”
The original scaffold went up after small pieces of masonry came loose from the building, comprising a former hair salon and four vacant flats above it, but since then its condition has worsened.
Community councillor John Taylor said: “I think this is now bordering on incompetence on more that one person at the council’s part.
“Somebody has not been doing their job. To turn around and say it has deteriorated in the last few years is ridiculous – of course it has.
“I honestly think somebody’s head should roll for this – in fact, more than one.”
That sentiment came after Jedburgh councillor Scott Hamilton warned the town will have to “grit its teeth and bear it”.
He said: “We understand there’s a detrimental impact on the town, but we have to stress that it’s a privately-owned building.
“It’s a very complex situation both legally and financially.
“I would ask that Jedburgh and everyone here grits their teeth. We are going to have to bear it until it’s resolved.”
“It has taken a lot of time – we apologise for that – but is being pushed, and at the highest level.”
Community council chairman Rory Stewart asked: “Is it not the case that it’s been brought up at a higher lever because one of the owners has disputed the costs?”
Councillor Sandy Scott, who earlier warned that it’s almost certain the town’s new school,due to open in March 2020, will be up before the scaffold comes down, replied: “The whole thing is a nightmare.
“We have found all the owners. None of them lives in the town, and one of them has decided they are not liking what our architect has done, so we have had to go away and get another architect too.”
A Scottish Borders Council spokesman said: “A welfare cabin is to be removed for the time being and the council are reviewing the traffic management arrangements, but no decision has been made at this time to remove the current one-way system.”