Couple wins the fight to turn historic Mansfield Bar into a flat

Mansfield Bar, Hawick
Mansfield Bar, Hawick

The owners of a former bar in Hawick have won their fight to convert their property into a residential flat at the council’s local review body.

Mansfield Bar, at 16 Mansfield Road, has served as a watering hole for supporters and opposition on their way to nearby Hawick Rugby Club for many years, but in April 2018 the owners were forced to close it due to a downturn in business.

Owners Brian and Susan Lee applied to Scottish Borders Council to convert the bar into a three bedroom residential flat in September 2018, but council planning officers refused the application due to the risk of flooding posed by the nearby River Teviot.

The Lees subsequently appealed to the council’s local review body, which met on Monday to deliberate on the proposals.

The Lees’ agents, Aitken Turnbull Architects, of Galashiels, submitted the initial application, which reads: “The Mansfield Bar had been run as a successful public house over a long number of years. However, the economic decline of the traditional working mills in the area, along with a change in the social habits of the local population, produced a severe, and terminal, decline in business.

“Consequently, the owners regrettably closed the doors on the public house in April of this year. Prior to this, the business had been up for sale as a going concern for five years. However, there had been little interest and no offers in that time.

“In view of this, the owners have explored alternative uses of the building and decided that the only viable use is as residential accommodation.

“The area around Mansfield Road is largely residential, therefore, this use does not conflict with the local environment or impinge on local residents. The applicant acknowledges that the area is susceptible to flooding. However, there are many other residential properties at ground-floor level in the same area.

“In view of this, a flood risk assessment is not provided with is application. It is expected that the flooding risk will be significantly reduced on the completion of the Hawick flood protection scheme.

“The applicant also acknowledges that there is no off-street parking available for this property. However, there is ample on-street parking in the vicinity, and it is anticipated that the proposed residential use will not generate any more parking demand than the public house.”

Aitken Turnbull Architects confirmed that there would be no structural alterations to the exterior of the building, in an attempt to preserve its character and history.

However, council planning officers refused the application due to what they describe as a significant risk of flooding at the property, meaning it would have remained designated as a bar, albeit a disused one, for the immediate future.

Speaking at the local review body, Galashiels and District councillor Sandy Aitchison asked his fellow councillors to overturn the decision of the planning officers: “The building is already there. The flooding is going to happen whether it’s a pub or a residential flat.

“In the context of this I’d prefer we had a flat here than a closed business.

“I’d be happy to overturn the officer’s decision on this as it will only benefit the area.”

Tweeddale West councillor Eric Small concurred, adding: “It’s better to have a property that is used rather boarded up, so I’d be happy to overturn this.”