Selkirk community hub could be used as an energy advice centre

Selkirk Regeneration Company treasurer David Bethune at the rear of the premises.
Selkirk Regeneration Company treasurer David Bethune at the rear of the premises.

Scottish Borders Council’s Selkirk common good fund has thrown its weight behind proposals to convert an old fish shop into a community hub, subject to planning permission being granted.

Selkirk Regeneration Company has submitted plans to the council to redevelop 5 Tower Street into a community asset at a cost of around £80,000.

The company previously acquired neighbouring 1 Tower Street, and it has hosted a series of pop-up shops selling various local products and services.

The regeneration company also submitted an application to the town’s common good fund, asking for £1,131 to cover the legal the planning and consultation fees associated with its application and £7,640 to cover some of the capital costs of the rebuilding and renovation.

At a meeting of the Selkirk common good fund committee on Wednesday, councillors were presented with a written statement accompanying the company’s application for funding.

It reads: “Selkirk Regeneration Company is a community-based non-profit company whose purpose is to initiate and administer projects which will benefit the people and environment of Selkirk and the surrounding area.

“Membership is open to any resident in the TD7 area who supports the aims of the company. Currently we have 84 members, who elect a board of trustees to manage the affairs of the company.

“Listening days are also held which allows the residents of Selkirk to suggest ideas for development, or comment on proposals.

“Currently we own and manage 1 Tower Street as a pop-up shop for the benefit of local residents, local crafts and charities.

“Rental for 1 Tower Street is kept low to maximise community benefit, but generates enough income to cover overheads, so the pop-up shop is sustainable in the long term.

“We are now working towards completing the renovation of the neighbouring former derelict fish shop at 5 Tower Street as a community resource.”

Speaking at the meeting, Selkirkshire councillor Gordon Edgar said: “They have to apply for planning permission, and once they get the approval, it makes their applications for funding from other sources quite a bit easier.

“Could I suggest we approve the initial funding of £1,131 and ask them to re-apply once planning permission has been granted?”

Councillors were in broad agreement with Mr Edgar, but rather than asking the company to re-apply, they granted the funding in full on condition that planning permission is granted.

The company’s website explains the history of the project so far, saying: “The old fish shop at 5 Tower Street has been stripped out and had some basic renovation done to allow the front shop to be used temporarily as a second pop-up shop.

“The rear shop, which was riddled with dry rot, has been partially demolished, with all infected wood removed, and left open to the elements.

“Thanks to funding from the Big Lottery Fund, we have had various plans drawn up to rebuild this into a useful community resource.  

“Unfortunately, the Big Lottery were unable to fund the actual development, so we have gone back to the drawing board, produced a less ambitious plan and are currently seeking funding from various trusts to allow us to complete the works, which will probably cost around £80,000.

“Our longer-term vision for 5 Tower Street is to set it up as an energy advice centre, staffed by a project manager and energy adviser, paid for through the climate challenge fund.  

“The staff would be able to provide advice to householders to help them reduce their energy bills and carbon footprint.  If funding comes through, this project could be under way in April 2019.”