Hawick drive-through McDonald’s plans to be decided by ministers after council gives go-ahead

Fast-food fans can rejoice now that plans to build a McDonald’s drive-through restaurant in Hawick have taken a step forward.

Monday, 13th January 2020, 4:13 pm
Updated Monday, 13th January 2020, 4:54 pm
Stuart Marshall at Commercial Road, Hawick

Members of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee approved the proposals, expected to create around 60 jobs, lined up for the former Bruce Motors car showroom site, today, January 13.

They’ve also given the go-ahead for a new B&M Bargains store to be built at the Commercial Road site, replacing the existing smaller one in Croft Road.

Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall spoke in support of the plans to the committee at the council’s Newtown headquarters.

The recently demolished former Bruce Motors garage in Hawick's Commercial Road.

“If these plans are approved this morning, not only will this part of my town be further regenerated, revitalised and developed, but doing so also creates employment, as well as protecting existing jobs with the relocation of a branded retail store,” he said. “It will also give more people from outwith our town even more choice and opportunity to stop, shop and explore other parts of Hawick and see what we have to offer.

“By agreement to these recommendations today, you also give our youngsters in the town the opportunity to use a very popular fast-food outlet right on their doorstep without the need to travel a 36-mile round trip, as opposed to what happens at the moment.”

Although, the committee agreed with him, the US-based chain’s iconic golden arches are still some way off from making a long-anticipated appearance in Hawick as the application, submitted by Edinburgh developer Image Estates Queen Street, still needs clearance from above.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is maintaining its objection to the plans on the grounds of potential flood risk, so the bid will now go to Holyrood ministers for final approval.

“As chairman of Hawick volunteer flood group, I know only too well what the flood protection scheme will mean for our townsfolk and its business sector,” Mr Marshall added. “A few years ago, our new retail stores along Commercial Road – such as Aldi, Lidl and Sainsbury’s and even the new Borders Distillery – were being constructed.

“Every one of those new businesses met the required standards, and more, in order to mitigate flooding events. With the flood protection scheme well under way in Hawick, and more importantly right on the very doorstep of these plans, surely this evidence along should be enough to satisfy the worries of SEPA.

“I appeal to SEPA and the Scottish Government to accelerate their support for this major development in our town.”

He warned of the “catastrophic” effects any such lack of support could bring, saying: “Not allowing these plans to move forward will, in my mind, have a catastrophic effect on the economic future of our town.

“The people of Hawick will, in my opinion, have missed a golden opportunity to develop an area of Commercial Road that could sit unoccupied and lie dormant for many years to come.

“Trade, business, commerce and enterprise are all key words that are synonymous with the word commercial.

“I ask you to let this very famous road in Hawick live up to the reason why it got its name in the first place.”

Officers believe the new development, between the town’s Aldi and Sainsbury’s stores on land now owned by the council’s flood protection scheme team, would be expected to boost trade in Hawick town centre rather than posing an additional threat to its High Street.

However, the environmental agency’s fear of flooding will remain a valid one, and could yet put a spanner in the works.

Principal planning officer Barry Fotheringham said: “It is clear that this site is at risk from flooding. However, in consultation with Hawick flood protection scheme, they have confirmed that there is capacity there to cover this. The site would be buildt into the flood protection scheme.”

Kelso councillor Simon Mountford added: “Obviously, the fly in the ointment is the SEPA objection.

“It’s a shame that SEPA have not acknowledged the expert opinion that has been provided.

“We have been here before, where there has been a difference in opinion between our flood officer and SEPA. Usually the flood officer has more on-the-ground information, so to speak.

“I would urge us to follow the flood officer’s advice this time.

“I welcome this applications. It’s very good for Hawick, and it’s good to see the way Commercial Road has been redeveloped over the past few years.”

Another potential problem which could force a “fundamental redesign” of the site, despite it now having gaining approval from the local authority, is the stipulation that a four-metre buffer zone must be in place between the rear of the site and trees adjacent to Princes Street.

“It’s essential that the proposed development does not result in any adverse impact for those trees recently subject to a tree protection order,” Mr Fotheringham said.

For that reason, the council’s landscape architect is suggesting a four-metre buffer zone be put in place as part of a root protection order. The applicant’s employed expert disagrees, though, and is suggesting some trees should instead be removed.

Mr Fotheringham, however, says the council will insist the recommendation is followed even if it means the B&M store’s footprint be reduced in size or moved, even though “moving that may result in a fundamental redesign of the site”.

Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison backed up that insistence that trees be protected and criticised Image Estates’ failure to take that issue seriously.

“Here we have a major financial investor in the area and the applicant has not, as yet, come up with the proper survey,” he added. “That’s a little naughty, to be honest.

“They should be going out of their way to provide these details for us.

“That said, I think Hawick will enjoy this development and it will enjoy this development. The town will welcome a source of people meeting and talking.”

Agreeing to back the plans for approval, subject to conditions, Tweeddale West councillor Eric Small said: “I think this is good for the whole Borders.

“It will bring jobs to the area. I am all for it and believe the conditions being put in place will allay any fears over flooding.”

Galashiels councillor Andy Anderson added: “The retail unit is like any other. It’s a little uninspiring, but that’s the case with most of them.

“There are a few issues to sort out, but officers have done a good job in getting these restrictions in place.”