SBC headquarters to become a ‘civic hub’ as £480k revamp set for green light

Scottish Borders Council headquarters is set to become a ‘civic hub’ as a new vision for the future of the building is revealed.
Scottish Borders Council HQ in Newtown St Boswells.Scottish Borders Council HQ in Newtown St Boswells.
Scottish Borders Council HQ in Newtown St Boswells.

A debate has been raging in recent weeks over the changing nature of the building at Newtown St Boswells.

Some are concerned at the HQ being almost “completely empty” because of ‘flexible working’ – with staff offered the opportunity of working from home in a post-pandemic world.

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Council bosses say the approach is improving both its carbon footprint and its ability to recruit staff.

And when members of the council’s decision-making Executive Committee meet next week they will be recommended to endorse a new vision for the headquarters building which will see it transformed into a ‘civic hub’.

This is set to involve NHS Borders, Live Borders and Police Scotland operating services from the building.

NHS Borders has already relocated approximately 60 staff from the Learning Disability service at Earlston to HQ, occupying space on the first floor of the extension building and generating a rental income for SBC.

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A report from John Curry, the council’s director of Infrastructure & Environment, says: “The vision is to re-imagine HQ as a civic hub, to optimise use of the building, increasing occupancy and utilisation.

“This provides opportunities to support public and third sector partners by working more closely and collaboratively, pooling resources whilst also helping to share/ reduce operational costs and maximise investment that SBC have already committed.

“SBC is in active discussions with NHS Borders, Live Borders and Borders Community Action about co-location opportunities at HQ.

“Preliminary, exploratory discussions have been arranged with Police Scotland and Scottish Futures Trust about opportunities for co-location and greater collaborative working in the Scottish Borders. These opportunities may not be restricted to council HQ.

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“There is an opportunity to create community gardens and community food growing areas in and around the building so that HQ becomes more than just the administrative office for the neighbouring community.

“There is an opportunity to create a business hub/ incubator space which could be enhanced by enabling direct access to officers and our partners to help support businesses as they emerge, grow and/ or sustain.

“By moving towards a civic hub, it is expected that we will get closer to that vision by creating a viable operating café, catering to the community and SBC team members and a range of public and community partners.

“Offering community access to dynamic workplace settings akin to those found in city centre locations by encouraging residents to work locally –reducing commutes and associated carbon – and businesses to operate in area to bolster the local economy.”

Members will also be asked to agree spending of a further £480,000 on continuing improvements at HQ which will include £230k on creating a meeting/civic zone and £150k on a training suite.