Demolition plans agreed for former Hawick primary school

A Hawick school is now set to be bulldozed just 18 months after closing its doors to pupils.

Thursday, 24th October 2019, 12:00 am
Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson at the old St Margaret's RC Primary school.

Scottish Borders Council planners have granted approval for the demolition of the old St Margaret’s RC Primary School in Buccleuch Terrace.

That move has been agreed amid fears that, if allowed to continue standing empty, the building might become an eyesore and a target for vandalism.

No decision on the future of the site has yet been made.

However, Maramar Holdings, the Halifax-based firm converting the former Peter Scott mill nearby into retirement apartments, is said to be interested in buying the site to create a new access to that development.

The council undertook a statutory consultation regarding the future of the school, opened in the 1950s, in November 2017. That was prompted by a rapid fall in the school roll, with its occupancy falling to just 14% of capacity.

As a result of that consultation process, plans to shut the school were agreed by the council. It formally closed in summer 2018 and has been vacant ever since.

The rapid decision to demolish the building has not received unanimous support, though.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson has questioned why no elected members were consulted over the demolition plans and why a community suggestion that the building be converted into an arts centre has not been acted upon,

He added: “How many incidents of vandalism have there been at St Margaret’s since it was closed? I have not heard of any.

“There have been several examples of vandalism at Burnfoot Community School and that is occupied. Does this mean we should close Burnfoot’s school?

“The vandalism claim is just being used as a red herring.

“The building is structurally sound, so why demolish it?”

However, Mr Paterson conceded that the demolition of the building is now being supported by neighbours of the site, adding: “The folk in the immediate area are quite happy with it being a car park.

“Several constituents have told me that they would be quite happy to have it pulled down.”

In his report recommending demolition of the old school, council planning officer Stuart Herkes, said the building was out of character with its surroundings and that its removal would benefit the town.

He said: “I am content that the removal of the school would have no unacceptable impacts upon the historic character and appearance of the conservation area.

“I would state that my advice in this respect is informed by the views of the cultural heritage consultees who reasonably advise that the removal of the school would have a neutral effect, given that its mid-20th century character is at odds within the predominantly 19th century streetscape within which it is accommodated.

“The building’s removal has potential to help unlock the redevelopment of the listed buildings on the Peter Scott site, which can be viewed positively in terms of its potential to support a wider and greater benefit to the public interest, albeit in the longer term.”

An earlier council report recommending demolition also suggested the land could be marketed for future residential development but noted that there was little demand for housing plots in Hawick.

It added: “It is considered that, given its location, the building is of little or no townscape value and there are concerns that if left unoccupied, there is potential for damage and vandalism.

“This council has, in the past, had to board up all the windows of redundant buildings in the town, and this is not only unsightly but also is an ongoing cost to continually maintain.”

Immediately before closure the school had capacity for 100 children, but its roll was just 14, with no pupils enrolled in primary one for the academic year ahead.

During consultation over closure, parents said they were happy with the learning provision at St Margaret’s but voiced concerns regarding the challenges their children faced with integration into the wider community.

After closure most pupils switched to other non-denominational schools nearby.