Community council role defended in Lauder health centre backlash

THE former chairman of Lauderdale Community Council has rejected a suggestion his organisation has not been “honest and upfront” over the siting of a new health centre in Lauder.

“I do not want to get into a game of verbal ping pong over this issue, but I must refute absolutely that we acted in any way inappropriately,” said Graeme Donald, whose term at the helm had expired before Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee last week granted NHS Borders consent for the facility on part of the town’s public park at Croft Road.

The accusation comes from the action group POGS (Protect our Greenfield Site) which was set up when the health authority selected the site, owned by SBC.

For its part, the local authority will provide a new children’s play area between the site and the new primary school, which opened a year ago, and will also install floodlights on a sports training pitch.

POGS has vowed to fight on, despite last week’s decision which now, because of SBC’s ownership involvement, requires to be rubber-stamped by Scottish ministers.

“Our fight to keep our park and play area for the future children of Lauder to use and play on is by no means over and we will continue to lobby against this proposal,” said Allan Alexander on behalf of the group which puts Mr Donald in the frame.

“It has been brought to our attention that sometime around 2004, there is a public record that shows the old primary school site had been allocated as the future site for the health centre,” said Mr Alexander.

“Who was the chairperson at this time? Why did he allow ... the public park to become the new site?

“Some members of POGS have been accused of having personal agendas, but I can state quite cleary we do not, although some members of our current community council should look at their own consciences.

“POGS have been honest with the residents of Lauder from the start and we have not changed our stance. We want a new health centre but not on the park.

“Has our illustrious community council and SBC been as honest and upfront? We believe not.

“As for the future, we can make sure our community council consults with the residents on all matters concerning our community before any action is taken. We urge residents to go to their meetings, listen to and challenge what is going on.”

Mr Donald said he had represented the community council in talks with SBC and NHS Borders over the past five years.

“Our overarching priority was to get a new health centre for Lauder; an aim fully supported by the two GP practices,” he told us this week.

“Several sites have been looked at over the years, but deemed unsuitable, including the southern site at Wyndhead, considered too remote, and, latterly, the old school site which NHS Borders decided against pursuing.

“I applaud the commitment of the POGS group and their call for ongoing community involvement, but the aspersions they are casting on the community council are totally unjustified.

“We are proud of our record on public consultation on a range of issues and have successfully lobbied not only for the new school at Allanbank, but also the retention of both fire and police stations.

“In relation to the health centre, progress reports on sites have been regularly given at our monthly meetings which are open to the public.

“The town is not losing its play facilities because an even larger area is being created and, yes, I am proud of the fact we promoted this site when other alternatives had been exhausted.

“Our only motivation has been – and remains – to get the best for the people of Lauderdale.”

Meanwhile SBC leader David Parker, who represents the Leaderdale and Melrose ward, welcomed the planning decision.

“Lauder desperately needs a new health centre and the current provision is very poor, outdated and most definitely in need of replacing in the near future,” said Mr Parker.

“I hope now that the planning decision has been made that we can move on, in the quickest possible timescale, to deliver a new health centre for Lauder along with the new play area, sports pavilion and other improvements in the park.”