Jedburgh and Hawick bottom of top 10 index
Jedburgh and Hawick are at the bottom of a new top 10 league table reflecting the socio-economic wellbeing of the town centres of the region's biggest towns.
At the other end of the spectrum in terms of prosperity are Peebles and Melrose.
The latest town centre index compiled by Scottish Borders Council’s economic development department offers a snapshot of all 10 towns in the region with a population of more than 2,000.
The data, presented to last week’s meeting of the council’s executive committee, was ordered to “provide a way to better understand the economic and social rubustness or potential need of our town centres relative to one another and provide an objective basis for prioritising public-sector interventions”.
Each town is scored on 17 criteria including population trends, town centre footfall, vacant shops, housing tenure, unemployment and educational qualifications, providing scope for a score of up to 170.
The index reveals that Jedburgh and Hawick shared the lowest mark of 56, giving them a rank of one.
Peebles, with a score of 133, enjoyed the top ranking of 10, followed by Melrose on nine, Innerleithen on eight, Kelso and Duns both on six, Selkirk on five, Galashiels on four and Eyemouth on three.
According to the index, Hawick suffered a 42% drop in daily town centre footfall – from 7,480 to 4,360 – between 2012 and 2015.
In the same timeframe, Jedburgh’s footfall fell 15%, from 2,900 to 2,460, and the number of empty retail units there rose by 4%, with 23 of the town’s 91 shops vacant.
By contrast, Kelso clocked up a 27% rise in daily footfall, from 4,360 to 5,550.
Jedburgh councillor Jim Brown has long attributed the downturn in his town’s economic fortunes to the 2004 de-trunking of the A68 south of Carter Bar.
At last week’s meeting, he called for English road authorities to be urged to install signs to encourage drivers to use the A68 instead of the A1.
And he welcomed the Scottish Government study, due for completion at the end of this year, to identify improvements to the infrastructure of three of the region’s trunk routes – the A1, A68 and the A7 south of Galashiels.