Chambers row: "We won't let it lie” says chair

The chairman of Peebles Community Council has vowed that he “will not let it lie” following a decision by Scottish Borders Council to reject calls for public representation on the Board of Trustees for the Chambers Institution.

By Hilary Scott
Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 12:00 pm
Peebles Chambers Institution.
Peebles Chambers Institution.

Throughout 2020, there has been a catalogue of concerns about a “lack of transparency” with missing minutes from historical meetings, the dilapidated condition of the Burgh Hall, and that fact that there is no community representation since the mass resignation of public trustees in 2014.

This was ignited following a controversial decision by the current six trustees –councillors Shona Haslam, Stuart Bell, Robin Tatler, Heather Anderson, Eric Small and Kris Chapman, who gave the go-ahead to fell the trees at the War Memorial within the Quadrangle in 2019.

The Tweeddale councillors defended their decision saying they acted on concerns from the British Legion about the condition of the trees.

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Councillor Chapman has since stood down as Chairman of the Board, with the role now bring shared jointly by councillors Bell and Tatler.

SBC’s decision to reject public trustees is “not accepted” by Peebles Community Council and the Civic Society.

At a meeting of the town’s community council, last week, chairman Les Turnbull said: “We are in the position now of considering what our next steps should be, but we will not be letting it lie.”

Keen to point out that the decision was made by SBC and not the current trustees, Tweeddale Councillor Stuart Bell informed the meeting of “exciting” opportunities on the way for the Chambers Institution.

He said: “We reviewed how the meetings are organised, and what we would do in order to establish a stakeholder group, which is a piece of work that was advised to us by the council to do.”

In regards to future plans for the buildings, Councillor Bell said: “We spent some time in public and in private, considering the practical processes in moving forward in terms of two, I hesitate to use the word exciting, but they are good opportunities. Some funding has been identified that would open up the possibility of taking out the suspended ceiling in the Burgh Hall, which, from past consultations, was identified as opening up the possibility of improving the atmosphere of the Burgh Hall.”

Members were also told that there may be a funding opportunity to facilitate a significant change in the structure and layout of the rooms at the Chambers Institution.

"We are getting on with the business,” assured councillor Bell. “I am not detracting from the anxieties you’ve got, but I think we need to put on record, the Chambers Institution Trust is proceeding with the improvements we think are needed in the building.”