Developer seeks to lift flats condition after mill demolition

Hawick property developer Gavin Stevenson
Hawick property developer Gavin Stevenson

ONE of the last vestiges of Hawick’s 19th-century industrial heyday is set to be demolished.

Local property developer Gavin Stevenson was last year granted permission to bulldoze the former Wilton Mill, a listed three-storey building in Commercial Road, provided he built a five-storey block of 24 flats on the vacant site within six months of demolition.

Wilton Mill

Wilton Mill

But on Monday, the planning committee of Scottish Borders Council will consider a plea from Mr Stevenson for this condition to be removed – and councillors are being urged by planning officer Julie Hayward to approve the revised bid.

In a submission, Mr Stevenson will claim the requirement to develop the site within six months “may have been appropriate when the economy was buoyant, but is no longer appropriate”.

He contends that since his plans were first considered in 2009, much has changed with regard to the state of the building.

“The fabric has been exposed to two severe winters and Wilton Mill is now in irreversible rapid decline,” states Mr Stevenson. “The top floor and roof structure have become unsafe and it is considered of paramount importance to have the building demolished at the earliest possible date.”

He says scaffolding to support part of the building in the south-west corner of the site had been erected only as a short-term safety solution.

“However, the state of the current economy has restricted any genuine interest to realise the project and ongoing scaffolding costs are continuing to mount and will have to be paid, further impacting on financial viability.

“As the building continues to become more dilapidated, the general poor appearance of the mill creates a negative character and blights the Commercial Road corridor at a time when the focus should be on regeneration following the opening of the new and adjacent Sainsbury’s food store.

“The building has become a health and safety hazard, as well as a fire risk. Several small fires have been started and the police and fire services have had to attend the site regularly.”

Subject to approval by Historic Scotland, which did not object in principle to demolition last year, Mrs Hayward concurs with Mr Stevenson’s assessment and recommends removal of the six-month stipulation.

However, the committee is set to demand that a full archaeological survey, which may include excavation, and a method statement of how the buildings will be demolished must be submitted before any work begins.

Councillors are also being asked to ensure that the landmark clock tower of the mill, once the home of wool merchants Mactaggart Bros, is retained and that the mill lade is kept as an open feature with a perimeter wall.