Loch walkway near Hawick could face axe if upkeep proves too costly

Williestruther Loch, near Hawick.
Williestruther Loch, near Hawick.

The boardwalk at Williestruther Loch near Hawick is now at risk of being removed despite only having been built four years ago.

Hawick’s common good fund sub-committee has been forced to take over responsibility for the wooden walkway, constructed on its land in 2015, because of a lack of foresight by the community councillors overseeing the project at the time.

The town’s community council secured a £30,000 grant from Scottish and Southern Electricity’s sustainable development fund in 2014 to pay for the boardwalk but failed to take into account that there would be ongoing maintenance and insurance costs.

Now, faced with the prospect of having to pay those bills for years to come, it has issued a plea for help and at its meeting at Hawick Town Hall last week, the sub-committee agreed to shoulder that burden after being told by council officers that, as the boardwalk is on common good land, it is legally responsible for it.

That transfer of responsibility could lead to the walkway being removed if its upkeep looks likely to prove too costly to justify, however.

The sub-committee has asked officers to come up with projected estimates for maintenance and insurance costs before coming to a decision.

The boardwalk has been a bone of contention ever since its opening, along with provision of car-parking spaces there, as the increase in visitor numbers it has led to has been accompanied by a rise in dog fouling.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson was opposed to the sub-committee taking on responsibility for the site, instead saying the community council and town angling club should pay for its upkeep.

In a letter to the sub-committee, he wrote: “We, as trustees of the common good fund, were given assurances by Hawick Community Council and Hawick Angling Club that any mess would be cleaned up after I had made the point regarding the problems created when you make areas more accessible to the public by allowing more cars to be parked there.

“Never at any time during all the negotiating between council officers and the angling club and community council representatives was it said Hawick common good fund would be paying for the ongoing maintenance of the boardwalk.”

Speaking at last week’s meeting, fellow Hawick and Hermitage councillor George Turnbull, the sub-committee’s chairman, said: “Now that maintenance is up to us, I think lessons have to be learned so that in the future that when we approve projects, we fully understand the implications.

“We now have full responsibility for the boardwalk and will be covered by our public liability insurance.”

Watson McAteer, another Hawick and Hermitage councillor, added: “There should be an assessment of the state of the boardwalk and what its condition might look like in the next three or four years, to see what it’s going to potentially cost the common good.

“After that, we can make a decision rather than someone coming to us in the next few years and saying it’s fell to pieces.”