Councillors’ anger as Jed eyesore set to stand for another few weeks

Cll. Jim Brown power sprays the building in Jedburgh High Street in a bid to clean up the eyesore ahead of the tourist season.
Cll. Jim Brown power sprays the building in Jedburgh High Street in a bid to clean up the eyesore ahead of the tourist season.

Jedburgh councillors are up in arms over what they claim is yet another delay to demolishing an eyesore building that has blighted the town’s High Street for years.

It had been hoped work would have started by now tearing down the former retail property at 31 High Street, known locally as ‘Bert’s Shop’.

Scottish Borders Council was granted a compulsory purchase order (CPO) by Scottish ministers in November, with a view to clearing the site for affordable housing.

Local councillors claim they were told work could start during the town’s Callant’s Festival earlier this month, but say they have now been informed it could be anywhere from another six to eight weeks before workmen actually start to take down the property.

Councillors say they are continually being quizzed by townsfolk about when something is actually going to happen on-site.

Tackling the long-running saga of the derelict building was one of the main reasons Councillor Jim Brown (SNP) stood for election back in 2007.

An unhappy Mr Brown says he appreciates there were issues over ownership that needed resolved, but insists this latest turn of events will do nothing to placate fed-up residents.

“This saga has been going on for about six years. We were finally given a starting date for demolition in July. Now it seems that won’t be happening for another six or eight weeks. I’m very unhappy this is the case,” said Mr Brown, who, together with fellow Jedburgh councillors, Sandy Scott (Con) and Rory Stewart (Ind), has asked for a site meeting with SBC chief executive Tracey Logan this morning.

Mr Scott is also irate that after all this time, there is still no sign of demolition work finally commencing.

“This is a real bone of contention,” Mr Scott told TheSouthern this week.

“The plus side of such a long procedure is that there are strict rules about when the local authority can take away private property, but on the other side it is very annoying that this is still dragging on and might now be another eight weeks before anything happens.

“We were given clear guidance just after Christmas that the building could be taken down during the week of the Callant’s Festival.

“But now we have been told it will probably be at least another eight weeks. I’m very disappointed this has been delayed again.”

However, a spokesperson for the local authority this week denied there had been any delay.

“There has been no delay on the part of the council in progressing this matter,” TheSouthern was told.

“Following the compulsory purchase process, the council did not obtain title to this property until June 27. SBC had no legal right to enter the property before that date.

“The council wrote to the owners in February asking for their cooperation and asking if entry could be provided before the council took ownership. No reply was received to that request.

“SBC did, however, undertake a considerable amount of preparatory work in advance of obtaining ownership, including the initial phase of tendering through the council’s procurement procedures, and obtaining a building warrant for the demolition of the building.

“Since June, the required survey works of the building have been undertaken and the council has made comment on the proposed tender documentation, and it is envisaged that the formal tender paperwork will be put out to tender by the end of next week.”

Until 2002, the C-listed building hosted two shops – an electrical outlet run by the late Bert Dalgleish and the Coffee Pot cafe.

Since then, the fabric has deteriorated badly, forcing the council to carry out structural stabilisation to prevent water infiltration and the spread of dry and wet rot.

The cost of clearing the site, estimated at £75,000, is likely to be met by the local authority, although attempts will be made to recover this from the owners.