Eyesore building in Jedburgh town centre now facing demolition

The only way is down for an eyesore town centre building now facing demolition after years of uncertainty.

Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 5:24 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 5:32 pm
Jedburgh councillor Scott Hamilton in front of the town's scaffolding-clad building in the square.

The derelict building at the corner of Exchange Street and High Street in Jedburgh has been shrouded by scaffolding for the last four years pending a decision on its future, but council officers have now decided there is no option other than to demolish it.

That impasse has been replaced by further uncertainty over what happens to the site next, but Leaderdale and Melrose councillor Tom Miers, chairman of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee, has come up with a possible way forward, suggesting that a competition be run to design a replacement building.

That suggestion coincides with the publication by the council of a development guidance report on the property outlining what it would like to see from would-be developers.

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The options outlined in the report, intended purely as suggestions, include a traditional tenement corner building as seen in Edinburgh, a contemporary approach to such a building, leaving the site empty following demolition and an architecturally-innovative design like the Dancing House in Prague in the Czech Republic.

Mr Miers said: “This is a very important site. We’ve got to make sure we get a really good building there, and I was thinking about the design statement. I just think we should have the word ‘exceptional’ in there.

“I think it might be interesting to have some kind of architectural competition for this site which would engage the public, and we might get a really positive response.”

Jedburgh councillor Scott Hamilton said that getting the right design is paramount, adding: “This cannot be left as a gap site in such a prominent place and considering the historical character of the town centre.

“In terms of picking the right design, and getting one that is of good standards, that’s what we should be seeking to do here.

“How it plays out I don’t know, but I would certainly support healthy competition.”

The building has been encased in scaffolding since June 2015 and a crash deck was erected to protect passers-by from falling debris.

The scaffolding was extended in December 2017, to facilitate the removal of a corner chimney deemed to be in danger of collapse, and in June 2018 the scaffolding was once against extended.

That latest extension necessitated the introduction of a one-way system in Jedburgh likely to remain in place until the fate of the site is decided.

A report has been produced by the council’s regulatory services director, Brian Frater, advising that demolition is the only answer and setting out development guidance for any potential developers.

It reads: “A number of options have been explored to secure a future for the building, including potential grant aid for repairs, but the condition of the building is such that the only economically viable option is to demolish the building and redevelop the site.

“The removal of the building would address the significant adverse impact currently created by the substantial scaffolding required to keep the building structurally sound.

“The removal of the building would result in a gap site being created in the short term. However, to ensure an appropriate replacement building is provided in this prominent location, this guidance has been prepared to provide a framework for redevelopment of the site.

“In order to maintain the overall character and appearance of the conservation area, as well as the setting for the neighbouring listed buildings, it is intended that a replacement building should be erected on the cleared site which will turn the corner in an architectural manner.

“The demolition of the building at 2 High Street/12 Market Place grants an opportunity for a high-quality redevelopment of a prominent site at the heart of the Jedburgh conservation area and town centre, reintroducing housing to the upper floors, with commercial or retail provision on the ground floor.

“This is a unique opportunity to increase and enhance the vibrancy and vitality of High Street.”

Mr Hamilton told Monday’s meeting of the committee: “It’s very complicated, and if only the three local members from the town owned the building, the work would have been done promptly and we wouldn’t have got into this situation.

“This report isn’t a design feature, but I’m glad we’re moving forward.”