Hawick bar boss’s appeal over rejected function room plans put on hold

Deans' Bar in Orrock Place in Hawick.
Deans' Bar in Orrock Place in Hawick.

A Hawick bar boss appealing against opposition by council officers to his plans to reopen a function room says the long-running wrangle is causing him unbearable stress.

Mark Deans bought the former Hawick YM Rugby Club venue in Orrock Place over three years ago and renamed it Deans’ Bar.

He then contacted officers at Scottish Borders Council to ask about reopening the club’s old function room at the back of the premises. However, he was told he needed to install a full ventilation system before he could do so.

That ventilation requirement emerged after Mr Deans had asked for retrospective permission to reinstate two bricked-up windows and install extractor fans, an application rejected over concerns about noise disturbing neighbours.

Mr Deans says there are numerous other clubs in the town operating without such ventilation systems and believes his business has been treated unfairly.

“We took on this property in 2016 feeling really excited.

“It has been a pub since the 1800s, and, as far as we know, it is the oldest operating licensed premises in the town, so it is steeped in local history.

“The amount of stress and pressure on my health and family life has been unbearable.

“We are a young family with children, and the excitement and enjoyment of opening and running the bar has been completely shattered and made so difficult operationally and financially for something that should have been pretty straightforward and seems to be for other similar businesses.

“I genuinely feel that my business has been treated unfairly and asked to do things other businesses in the town have not. No other bar or function room in the town has had to install these types of air-conditioning units.

“Square One, for example, has a bar in the cellar with no windows or ventilation.

“Since we opened, the Bridge function room and 13 Brew’s function room have all been allowed to open without air-conditioning units, and we find it a bitter pill to swallow that these types of places are allowed to open without any fuss or requirements and are probably getting the business we are having to turn away.

“Some also have windows open, which is one of the reasons our planning application was refused.”

“We are turning away functions regularly, which highlights that there is a demand for this room to be open on the same basis as it has always been.

“There is also a massive loss of revenue for us and that may be the difference between the bar remaining open and closing.”

Mr Deans acknowledges there has been an ongoing issue with complaints from an upstairs neighbour regarding noise from the bar but added: “I feel that it is unfair that one person can effectively determine the fate of my business.”

His appeal against being refused planning consent was put on hold by the council’s local review body on Monday, April 15.

In his report recommending that refusal of permission be upheld, planning officer Stuart Herkes says: “I find that the use of the function room for the accommodation of customers and their entertainment, including music and bands, in combination with the insertion of the proposed windows, has resulted in an operation of the public bar use liable to have unacceptable impacts upon the residential amenity of the nearby residential properties.

“I find that the proposed windows installation is unacceptable in itself and that the application should be refused on that basis.”

Councillors heard that there are conflicting views as to whether unacceptable levels of noise would be created by music being played in the function room.

Council environmental health officers say they “witnessed several occasions when unacceptable levels of noise from amplified music in the function room are audible nearby”.

However, Mr Deans has provided a third-party report by Dundee-based consultant CSP Acoustics saying that that by replacing a fire escape with a soundproof door, adverse noise pollution could be avoided.

Councillors agreed that without cross-examining experts offering those contrasting opinions, they cannot make an informed decision and voted to hold a follow-uphearing on a date yet to be arranged to enable them to do so.