IT’S decision day in Lauder as about 2,300 adults registered with the town’s cramped medical practice in Factors Park have until 6pm this evening to decide whether they want a new health centre at Crofts Road.
Voting has been taking place over the past fortnight in a referendum organised by NHS Borders which, with Scottish Borders Council (SBC) leader David Parker and Lauderale Community Council, want a Yes vote to the £2.2million facility being sited on what is currently a play area next to a narrow one-way street and encroaching on to the public park.
As regular readers will be aware, an action group named POGS (Protect Our Greenfield Site) is bitterly opposed and, this week, both sides stepped up the battle for votes.
Leading for the opposition, a four-page POGs newsletter has been widely distributed, reasserting the view that the Crofts Road site is unsuitable and that other more appropriate locations have been unfairly rejected by the health authority.
There are claims that SBC had already committed spending of more than £900,000 for the provision of a replacement play park and the demolition and replacement of a sports pavilion. The cash which will not be defrayed by the sale of the Crofts Road site to NHS Borders for £250,000, because the land was later discovered to be in the ownership, not of SBC, but of Lauder’s Common Good.
POGS re-states its opposition to residents from outwith the royal burgh, in places such as Oxton and Blainslie, being allowed to vote on the disposal of a common good asset, claiming these people represent two thirds of the referendum’s electorate.
And it rails against what it considers the threat explicit in the recent statement by NHS Borders chief executive Calum Campbell who has stated: “A ‘no’ vote will mean the funding is not released and realistically will mean a health centre in Lauder will not be built.”
POGS reminds voters that NHS Borders has a statutory obligation to provide the residents of Lauder with a health facilities that are fit for purpose.
SBC leader David Parker responded: “The claim that two thirds of the electorate who are entitled to vote live outwith Lauder is simply not true. In fact, 59 per cent live in the town and 41 per cent in the wider Lauderdale area.”
He described the latest POGs newsletter as “a confusing, diatribe of inaccurate nonsense”, adding: “I cannot believe that anyone reading it can honestly think the people behind it have the best interests of Lauder and Lauderdale at heart.
“People have taken the referendum seriously and I expect a good turnout when the votes are counted on Friday.
“There can be no doubt Lauder is in desperate need of a new health centre and the proposal will also provide a new, bigger, safer and better-equipped play area, details of which I will be unveiling at the common council on Monday.
“With a Yes vote, the new sports pavilion and play area will open by June of this year and the health centre could proceed this summer and be available for use a year later.”
Votes must be received by 6pm this evening with the count taking place in Lauder Public Hall tomorrow at 10am. The public is invited to attend and hear the result declared by returning officer, local GP Dr Paul Cormie.