Opposition mounting to plans to demolish Jedburgh town centre building

The Jedburgh town centre building proposed for demolition.
The Jedburgh town centre building proposed for demolition.

Opposition is mounting to plans to demolish an eyesore building in Jedburgh town centre shrouded in scaffolding for the last four years.

Scottish Borders Council planners have put in an application to have the four-storey property at the corner of High Street and Exchange Street bulldozed to make way for a new building, but some objectors and experts believe it is not yet too late to save it.

Though yet to lodge a formal objection, Minto resident Robin Armstrong last month told the Southern: “The condition of the building has never been so serious to warrant demolition.

“The damage to stone work is localised, as is the dry rot.

“In fact, ironically, the cost of the scaffold over the last few years would have more than paid for the necessary renovation works.

“It seems that overreactions from the council and public have sealed the fate of this beautiful property.”

That protest has now been followed by objections to granting listed building consent for demolition from Lilliesleaf’s Merlin Lewis and Douglas Hunter, of Harestanes, near Ancrum.

Mr Lewis writes: “Allowing this building to be lost would be a huge oversight and an irresponsible course of action and its protection would be of great value to the town.

“There is also an economic case for protecting this building. Not only does tourism, and its vital associated revenue, revolve around the history and heritage of built Jedburgh, but there are ever-increasing examples of sites such as this becoming desirable spaces when restored to a high standard and marketed in a way that presents their history and character as a premium asset.

“We have seen success for buildings like this in larger towns and cities, and there is no reason to believe that, with care and forward thinking, such a direction would not be successful in Jedburgh.

“This is an opportunity to prevent a part of Jedburgh’s history from being completely wasted and to recognise the economic potential of such a building before it is too late.”

He cites the case of another High Street building, No 31, as a salutary warning, it having been demolished several years ago but not yet replaced.

“The story of 31 High Street provides a disappointing example of a failed experiment in removing core parts of Jedburgh’s architectural heritage,” he says.

“The existence of a more important and significant building now lies in the balance, and I consider it absolutely crucial that the application to demolish said building is refused.

“To demolish it would set an unfortunate precedent, paving the way for the demolition of similar buildings in the future.

“The council would find it difficult to reject a proposal for another demolition if it allowed this one to go ahead. At that point, Jedburgh faces a huge risk to its celebrated character and landscape.

“The loss of such an impressive and irreplaceable building in the centre of Jedburgh would be hugely regrettable.”

Mr Hunter agrees, also citing the fate of No 31 as a warning, saying: “Surely demolition should be a very last resort in a conservation area.

“Several years ago, in response to impatient complaints about scaffolding, an early 19th century building at 31 High Street was pulled down and replaced with a very unconvincing canvas and steel Wendy house.

“Prior to this, Jedburgh High Street’s buildings had survived remarkably unchanged for a century.

“What had been dubbed an eyesore became a sore thumb. Hopefully, that experiment will not be repeated.

“An opportunity now exists to protect the traditional charm of Jedburgh’s Market Place and High Street.

“This building, with its distinctive old Scottish corbie stanes roof feature, is an irreplaceable presence which would be sadly missed.”

The Scottish Civic Trust agrees with the council that the 153-year-old building’s days are numbered, however.

In its submission to planners, its director, Susan O’Connor, writes: “This is a sorry story of of inaction by neglectful ownership of an important building in the townscape of central Jedburgh and the apparent inability of your council to overcome the ensuing problems.

“Having studied the background information and professional reports, we agree with the conclusion that the time for encouraging its repair and restoration has now run out.”

“It is clear to us that your council has behaved responsibly in the circumstances and we welcome the prospect of an architectural competition for a replacement building.”