THE future of a village pub is in doubt after the premises and a large recently renovated flat above were ransacked by scrap metal thieves last week.
Paul Brown, owner of the Springbank Inn in Stow, estimates the cost of the damage inflicted by the raiders is £15,000.
“It is absolutely heartbreaking,” said Mr Brown. “The scum who did this will be lucky to get £40 for the metal they have stolen, yet they have wrecked my family’s life.”
Mr Brown, his wife Tracey and their two daughters Bonnie, six, and Savannah, two, live near Heriot, but their home is the subject of a compulsory purchase order to make way for the Borders railway.
“We had spent the last 12 weeks completely renovating the four-bedroomed double flat at the Springbank with a view to moving in, sorting out the pub and possibly re-letting it,” he told us.
The pub re-opened last year after being unoccupied for 18 months, but the new tenant gave up the lease in March. Since then the premises have been advertised for let.
“Given our domestic situation, we decided to do up the living accommodation and were getting ready to move in when my wife made the shocking discovery on Friday when she went to check the premises with the children,” said Mr Brown, who works with Midlothian Council.
“There are two doors at the back – one leading to the pub and the other the downstairs flat – which had been checked and secured on the Tuesday. But by Friday both had been jemmied open although nothing prepared Tracey for the scene of devastation inside.
“It was a shocking sight for my wife, who is still traumatised, and particularly for my children.”
The raiders had simply slegehammered their way through newly plastered walls and ceilings to get to the copper water pipes within.
A water tank in the freshly decorated kitchen had been ripped out, flooding the entire pub below.
“They battered down a wall in the pub to get to the piping, completely ignoring a brand new, just unpacked television in the bar and other electrical items upstairs,” said Mr Brown. “They appeared completely single-minded.
“You read about the surge in scrap metal prices and the crimitnality which goes with it, but when this kind of thing happens, it really hits home.
“The value of the scrap to the thieves was negligible, but the disruption has been enormous”
The police have issued an appeal for information on the incident which could have occurred any time between last Tuesday and Friday. Anyone who noticed suspicious activity in the vicinity is urged to contact police in Galashiels on 01896 752222.
But Mr Brown fears the perpetrators may come from outwith the Borders.
“The ‘to let’ sign has been outside the place for weeks which means it might have been targeted beforehand although, ironically, it was taken down on the Sunday before the theft.
“We have checked out the CCTV at a nearby car park but it revealed nothing. There have also been a lot of legitimate workmen coming and going during the renovation, but I would urge locals to think long and hard about what they may have seen last week.”
Mr Brown said he had arranged for a deferral of his CPO to allow his family to stay on at Heriot meantime.
“As far as the bar is concerned, I really don’t know what will happen,” he said. “The Springbank is the only pub on the A7 between Gorebridge and Galashiels and we had worked so hard to re-establish it as a community asset. But it means starting from scratch and that is something we will have to think about.”
Last week, we reported that Sheriff Kevin Drummond remanded a man who admitted stealing four metal gates from farms in Berwickshire, declaring: “The theft of metal in the countryside is a growing and substantial problem which needs to be addressed at a fairly high level.”
It may well, however, now be an urban scourge in the Borders. Police have reported the theft of copper piping from inside the former Borders College premises in Melrose Road, Galashiels, between noon last Wednesday and 11.30am on Friday, when forcible entry was discovered.