Hawick bar battle may continue in court

The owners of Deans’ Bar in Hawick have won their latest battle with council bureaucrats but fear they still may lose the war.

By Joseph Anderson local democracy reporter
Tuesday, 20th August 2019, 5:05 pm
Mark Deans at Deans' Bar in Hawick.
Mark Deans at Deans' Bar in Hawick.

The owners of the Orrock Place bar, Mark and Pauline Deans, have been in a deadlock with Scottish Borders Council planners and environmental health officers over air conditioning, as well as noise complaints from a disgruntled neighbour.

When the Deans bought the former Hawick YM clubhouse, they were told by council planners they needed to install air conditioning in the function room if they wished to rent it out. 

The Deans subsequently installed new windows at the rear of the property, albeit without planning permission, and when they did apply for planning permission, environmental health officers objected based on noise pollution grounds, and the application was refused. 

The Deans appealed to the council’s local review body, stating that the noise pollution can be mitigated by acoustic boards fitted to the windows.

After a protracted appeal process, which lasted months, councillors finally voted to overturn the planning officer’s decision and grant permission at a meeting of the local review body on Monday, August 19.

However, the bar owners still face an uphill battle against the local authority’s environmental health department, which is now taking the couple to court.

The concerns have been raised with the council by the Deans’ upstairs neighbour, who has repeatedly complained to Scottish Borders Council about the noise, even though live music and functions have taken place below their property for many years.

Environmental health officers have previously confirmed that before the Deans took over the premises, no noise complaints had been received by the neighbour.

The Deans were eventually served with an abatement notice, stating they must turn off all music after 11pm. 

Now, the Deans have been told that environmental health officers could still hear voices coming from the bar after 11pm, and so have notified the procurator fiscal that the couple have breached the noise abatement notice. 

Speaking after the local review body meeting on Monday, the Deans expressed their relief over the planning battle win, but trepidation over the forthcoming legal battle. 

Mark Deans said: “They’ve been a nightmare to deal with. Last week we were informed we’ve been referred to the procurator fiscal by environmental health. 

“They’re expecting no noise whatsoever after 11pm. Any noise at all. No matter what we do it isn’t good enough for them.”

Pauline Deans added: “They wouldn’t leave us alone, no matter what we do. 

“The neighbour is putting in complaints regardless of what we’re doing or not doing, so our worry is that he will continue to complain, because he’ll be furious about this.

“I’m really worried because he seems to have the ear of the environmental health officers.

“We’re already doing everything that they have asked of us, but they’re still not happy as they can still hear talking from the bar in the neighbour’s flat.

“Contrast to that, one of the pubs in the town, that’s in a residential area, recently hosted a ‘Rock on the Roof’ concert, with live bands.

“That’s fine, because nobody complained, because their neighbours are reasonable.”

A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “Our environmental health team served an abatement notice on Mr Deans in December 2017 requiring the noise from the premises to be abated between the hours of 11pm and 7am.

“Due to a number of breaches of the notice, a letter was sent to Mr Deans advising that the matter would be reported to the procurator fiscal recommending that Mr Deans is prosecuted for non-compliance with the abatement notice.

“Reporting the matter to the fiscal is following due process and follows the council’s enforcement policy where there is a continual breach of a statutory notice. 

“This is a protocol that would be followed in any enforcement case.”