New use for Beech Avenue flats ahead of refurbishment

Galashiels firemen are being given the chance to use an empty Beech Avenue block of flats as a training site before they are demolished.
Galashiels firemen are being given the chance to use an empty Beech Avenue block of flats as a training site before they are demolished.

The flats at Beech Avenue in Galashiels have been home to many families over the years, but now they are being used to train Borders firefighters.

The iconic brown structures will soon be completely refurbished, but social landlord Waverley Housing has given one block over to the crew from the Galashiels station so they can use it as part of a live training exercise, designed to replicate the type of situations that their staff have to deal with when tackling fire incidents in blocks of flats.

Crew manager Calum Brown said: “This was a great opportunity to carry out a fire training exercise in an authentic environment and it provided useful experience for our staff going forward.

“In particular, it allowed our staff to use breathing apparatus in a search and rescue scenario.

“We are grateful to Waverley Housing for working with us to provide an empty block of flats in Beech Avenue for this purpose and we hope to undertake further training exercises in this location in the future.

“We also appreciate the cooperation of local residents and their understanding of the need for these types of exercise.”

Fraser Kelly, chief executive of Waverley Housing, told us; “Hopefully, most of us will go through our lives without being involved in a fire incident, however, it is important that our Fire and Rescue Service staff are as well trained as possible to assist them to respond effectively to such incidents.

“Our ability to offer an empty block of flats for the purposes of a training exercise was one that we were keen to explore and builds on our already excellent working relationship with them.

“We consulted with residents in the local area before commencing these training exercises and only received positive feedback about the proposal.”

The £21.6m redevelopment will see 115 homes being built in a move being part-funded by Scottish Borders Council.

Of the current flats, 155 will be demolished and 68 will be refurbished, while 100 garages will be demolished, but 300 car parking spaces will be created, as well as 25 new garages.