£2m revamp on cards for deteriorating town centre

High Street, Hawick.
High Street, Hawick.

Hawick town centre could be in line for a major facelift as Scottish Borders Council begins work towards a regeneration project in the town.

A report by the authority’s economic development officer, Bryan McGrath, which is due to go before the council’s executive on Tuesday, seeks approval to begin applying for grants.

It advises the council to seek £1.41m funding from Historic Environment Scotland’s conservation area regeneration scheme (CARS) fund, to restore shop fronts and historic buildings.

The council will also add £157,700 to the pot, which, together with private sector contributions of £358,750, would give the project a £1.93m budget.

According to the report, a similar scheme in Selkirk, which saw £2.4m of public sector funding invested between 2013 and 2018, returned considerable results, with the number of at-risk buildings down from seven to two, average footfall rising from 2,090 to 2,710, and the percentage of vacant shops now sitting below the Borders’ average.

Hawick, on the other hand, has seen a marked deterioration in its town centre, with average weekly footfall declining year on year, from 9,990 in 2008 to just 4,680 now.

The latest retail audit in December 2017 showed 37 vacant units in the town centre, two thirds of which had been vacant for over a year, and there are currently seven ‘at risk’ buildings within the historic centre.

In the report, Mr McGrath says: “Hawick town centre has declined in recent years with a significant reduction in footfall and a noticeable cluster of vacancies at the southern end of the High Street.

“There are a number of prominent buildings which have deteriorated and require major external repair works.

“A heritage focused regeneration proposal has been developed for Hawick following the model used for other successful heritage based town centre initiatives delivered in Kelso and Selkirk and currently in Jedburgh.

“The proposal will seek to begin to reverse the decline by conserving and enhancing key properties within the Hawick conservation area and act as a catalyst for wider regeneration in the town.”

Key properties which would be renovated as parts of the project include the Crown Business Centre, the former Queen’s Head pub, the old Liberal Club, the former KT Krafts shop and the former Beauty Lounge, all in High Street.

If councillors agree to submit the application, the outcome should be known by February 2019, and work could begin as early as April.