Site suggestions shared as fast-food chain KFC eyes up Galashiels move

Galashiels councillor Euan Jardine at the Abbotsford Arms Hotel.
Galashiels councillor Euan Jardine at the Abbotsford Arms Hotel.

Galashiels could be set to be home to the region’s first KFC drive-through restaurant by the end of 2020.

That’s if ambitious plans revealed by the self-proclaimed finger-lickin’ good chicken chain come to fruition.

The fast-food giant has included Galashiels in a wishlist of 536 sites across the UK, including 22 in Scotland, it hopes to open either drive-through outlets, food court counters or restaurants at.

Though that news has come mainly as a welcome surprise to Borderers, Galashiels councillor Euan Jardine has already been in talks with Kentucky Fried Chicken bosses and has his thinking cap on over where the potential drive-through could be built.

“KFC has said that Galashiels is the top of their places to come, and I think this is something which could be explored,” he said.

“I have been aware of their intention to come to Galashiels for a while now and am very much in favour of this.

“There are one or two areas which I believe would work best, one of which would be the site just as you leave Galashiels on the A72.

“I have spoken to the owner of the area and he would be open to a conversations with KFC about the possibility of a drive-through on this site.”

His second suggested site, though, is that of the former Abbotsford Hotel in Stirling Street, and its future is already dividing opinion.

“I’ve asked that they be contacted about the hotel site, so they should be aware of its availability,” he added.

“There are also community groups looking at the Abbotsford Arms Hotel which have some great ideas and I wouldn’t wish to derail their ambitions.”

The hotel, once a thriving 19th century-style coaching inn with 15 bedrooms and a 50-seat restaurant and a function room, has lain empty since it closed its doors almost three years ago.

It became a magnet for antisocial behaviour and last year its owner, Graham Frost, of Atria One, was given approval to begin a £25,000 demolition project on the site.

However, if KFC is interested in the cleared site, with a demolition deadline of November 2021, it could lead to disappointment for the group of volunteers, led by Galashiels community councillor Jessie Harrington, trying to save the building for alternative uses.

And it’s that future Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison would prefer to see for the hotel rather than KFC.

This week he felt unable to comment on the idea in case an application later comes before the council’s planning committee on which he sits, but he told us previously he is not a frequenter of KFC outlets and wouldn’t be happy to see the company moving onto such a key site in the town.

Fellow councillor Harry Scott, however, said he would welcome the chain to the town.

“I think it would be an added attraction for people wanting to visit the town,” he said.

“As to where, I would have to see some options, and a planning application, before coming to any conclusion.”

Councillor Andy Anderson meanwhile suggested there’s scope for a restaurant or drive-through within an existing retail park.

He added: “I am pleased to hear of any investment proposals in the town.

“I met with the Danish owners of the Comeleybank Mill retail park some time ago and invited the local planning officer and an officer from the council’s economic development team to that meeting on-site.

“The owners expressed and interest in a restaurant or drive through business with the retail park.

“This may or may not be related to comments made by KFC, but it helps highlight that Galashiels is open for business.”

KFC opened its first UK store 1965, but today it operates 850 outlets in the country.

Currently the closest KFC restaurants for Borderers are around 40 miles away in either Carlisle or Edinburgh.

A spokesman for the US-based company, founded in 1952, said: “We have bold ambitions to have over 1,000 stores in the UK and Ireland by 2020, and we are looking to build over 50 new stores a year.”

Galashiels already hosts to the region’s only fast-food chain outlet, the McDonald at Wilderhaugh opened in 2000.

Speculation is also rife in Hawick that a McDonald’s could be built at the former Bruce Motors garage after Edinburgh-based developer Image Estates Queen Street went public in March with plans for a 24-hour drive-through at the Commercial Road site.