Disquiet is brewing about the abundance of cafes in Hawick, with fears being voiced that there might not be enough trade to go round and their ever-growing number might be a turn-off for visitors not craving a cappuccino or looking for a latte.
The town’s expanding array of coffee shops and takeaways sparked a difference of opinion at Hawick Community Council’s meeting on Monday after members were told that Scottish Borders Council had received two applications for food outlets in the High Street in the last month.
Alannah Grant has submitted a change-of-use application from retail to food and drink for the former flower shop at 72 High Street, home to her shop Bisset’s Baguettes for the last fortnight since it relocated from Selkirk.
An application has also been put in by Affan Rashid of Surrey to open a chippy in the old McCulloch’s fish shop at No 29.
Though members made no specific comments about those latest applications, some raised concerns about Hawick becoming overrun by cafes, takeaways and sandwich shops.
Andy Maybury said: “Somebody from out of town commented recently that Hawick is becoming a town of cafes.”
Jan Robertson added: “I know one long-established cafe that has already been affected and has had to make a member of staff redundant.”
Brian Bouglas said the law of economics would “surely sort it out”.
Former community councillor Greg McLeod said he feels there is enough custom in the town to go around and suggested creating a cafe trail.
“I think we should have a map showing all the different cafes and coffee shops, like a coffee trail,” he said.
“The amount of retired people, and those that are not, that meet up every day for coffee is quite significant.”
Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson said that hot food outlets could have a detrimental effect on residents as odours from such businesses’ extractors could impact on their quality of life.
“The smell comes up and has an impact on those living above,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter what you do about it. There’s always some smell that comes up.
“There are a lot of people who live on the High Street who feel that their voice is not being heard.”
Vice-chairman Graham Marshall acknowledged that there are many food outlets in the town but pointed out that concerns about additions to their number do not constitute grounds for objection.
“It’s not a planning issue if somebody decides to open a business the same as what is already there. We can not interfere in that,” he said.
“However, I would like to pick up on what councillor Paterson said. When you are dealing with hot food shops, there is always a smell no matter how good your extractor is.”
Planning restrictions for new businesses opening in High Street were relaxed last July after Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee voted to cut red tape in a bid to boost footfall in the town.
It made that move after being presented with a report revealing that footfall had halved in Hawick since 2007.
Members agreed to a recommendation by council officers that they no longer limit the types of business allowed to open in High Street.
During a year-long pilot scheme, any business that would get permission to open in the wider town centre now stands a good chance of being allowed to set up in High Street.
Previously, only businesses the council believed would generate footfall, such as restaurants and clothes shops, were granted consent to open there.
They also agreed not to insist on contributions from developers to provide extra funding for schools, playparks and amenities.
Speaking at Monday’s meeting, Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer said: “I won’t comment on the cafes, but I would make it clear that the council relaxed planning consent for the High Street for a year, so it’s less restricted.
“It effectively allows anybody to apply for a business on the street.
“They have done it for a specific purpose for a year’s pilot to try and encourage businesses to come to the High Street.”