Councillors minded to overturn planning rejection to try to save derelict Hawick building

The future of part of a former Hawick hotel now looks likely to lie in the hands of ecology officers after an appeal to change its use met with a favourable response among councillors this week.

By Kathryn Wylie
Wednesday, 27th May 2020, 1:46 pm
The old Buccleuch Hotel in Hawick's Trinity Street.
The old Buccleuch Hotel in Hawick's Trinity Street.

Joiner Stephen Cranston wants to change the use of an annex to the old Buccleuch Hotel in Trinity Street to accommodate his business, currently based in the town’s Wilton Hill.

The bit of the former hotel he wants to convert is the extension to its east once home to its public bar, guest bedrooms and a garage, as well as its rear car park.

The main hotel building – run separately, as a restaurant and function room, from the application site from 2005 until its closure in 2015 and in separate ownership – is currently vacant, though approval to convert it into a family home was granted in March last year.

Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standard committee rejected Mr Cranston’s plans in February, insisting the building is not suitable for industrial use and also demanding that a bat survey be carried out.

However, considering an appeal against that thumbs-down via video-link on Monday, the authority’s local review body agreed to look review his plans further once a bat survey has been assessed.

Hawick and Denholm councillor Clair Ramage said: “As far as I am aware, there hasn’t been any further use of that building since it was sub-divided in 2005.

“We are talking about a building that is falling into disrepair.

“Going through the papers, I was quite surprised at some of the issues that came up.

“You have various businesses along there, as well as Morrisons supermarket at the back. The applicant is planning to open up a display area so he’s hoping to have a street presence as well as doing his joinery work there.

“The hotel part is obviously going to be changed to housing, and the applicant has thought this through as he’s got the staff room and toilet area at the back end of his workshop as far away as possible from that future home.

“He sees this business expanding, and I think it’s a really suitable building for this business. I would love to see it actually being used rather than allowing it to be further neglected.”

Mr Cranston’s proposal is that the basement floor of the building house a joinery workshop and covered store and that the car park serve as a storage yard.

He argues that the area is mixed use rather than solely residential, as claimed.

Hawick and Denholm councillor Neil Richards agreed, saying: “The whole thing about town centres has changed so much over the last year.

“I don’t really feel this area really comes under town centre anymore because the high street is a very long one and Hawick has its problems like any other town does.

“The whole area is of mixed businesses and really I see no reason why this building shouldn’t be brought back into use before it completely falls apart.”

Mr Cranston has promised that efforts would be made to minimise noise and disruption to surrounding residents and businesses,

Kelso councillor Simon Mountford said: “The area is indeed mixed use and there’s even another joinery workshop across the road.

“Residential properties are in the minority in this location. It’s potentially capable of coexistence with its neighbour, but the crucial bit is that there shouldn’t be any noise nuisance, and we don’t have any evidence of what those noise levels would be.

“Environmental health need to be satisfied that any noise produced by this workshop would not have a negative impact.

“This is a building that is rapidly becoming derelict. I think we mustn’t ignore the impact that derelict buildings have on the streetscape.

“It discourages other forms of economic development and gives that depressed, run-down feeling that is contagious.

“It’s important that where possible, we bring buildings back into economic usage and this proposal would do that.

“There’s the potential to create jobs in the future as well.

“I think that insufficient weight is being given to the views of economic development. Economic justification has been provided for this change of use.”

Melrose and Leaderdale councillor and committee chairman Tom Miers agreed, saying: “Encouraging business development and use has a knock-on effect on the surroundings in terms of morale and impetus to increase business use.

“Bringing this property into business use will allow more space for commercial use in Hawick in net terms.”

Jedburgh councillor Scott Hamilton acknowledged officers’ concerns over noise impact on any future housing development within the hotel building, though.

“We are looking at a development there surrounded by similar business use developments,” he added.

“I can see the officers’ point about the hotel site being residential and that causing conflict further down the line, but we can only deal with what is in front of us now.”

Principal planning officer Craig Miller said the likelihood of bats being present in the building is high as it has been open to the elements for a while, so the committee deferred its decision until a bat survey is carried out and assessed.