Time for a truce, says crisis-hit council boss

Tom Burnham'Borders Tourist Board
Tom Burnham'Borders Tourist Board

The chairman of a community council which has been forced to disband has called for a truce in a bitter wrangle which has consumed his village.

Tom Burnham made his appeal after informing colleagues that Earlston Community Council could no longer operate within its constitution because of resignations.

The latest departure came last week when long-standing member Michael Scott stood down, following in the footsteps of Paul Goode who quit last month following a special meeting of the council.

At that packed gathering the community council was criticised for its perceived support for a £300,000 adventure playground at a high-amenity site at Mill Meadow – a project promoted by Earlston Community Development Trust (ECDT).

“With Michael gone, that leaves us with just five elected members on a 12-member council, so we cannot continue to operate and an election, planned for next year, will have to be brought forward,” said Mr Burnham.

“I don’t blame those who have quit because we have all been under increasing pressure, particularly through emails, from those opposed to the play park – an issue on which we have tried to remain neutral.

“I cannot speak for all those who have resigned, but I suspect they are disgusted as well as disillusioned.”

He added: “One member who resigned told me he now feared for the safety of his children and that just cannot be right.”

Mr Burnham said he would continue to assist ECDT in organising a public meeting and exhibition of what is proposed at Mill Meadow, in accordance with the feelings of last month’s special meeting.

“The lottery people have said they will award the play park £250,000, but they need to know that the project they are prepared to fund, which is site-specific and cannot apply to any other location, has the support of the community, so I will do what I can to aid that process.”

Mr Burnham said he awaited news from Scottish Borders Council about when an election could be held.

“It will either be just before or just after the May 7 general election, but I really hope it does not become a plebiscite on the play park issue, which has ripped our community apart.

“We urgently need a truce in these hostilities, which do nothing but harm for the reputation of Earlston and we also need a strong, broad-based community council to take forward other important issues, such as the search for allotment sites and plans for a pedestrian crossing over the A68.

“I call on both sides to come together, put aside their differences and move on.”

At yesterday’s meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s executive committee, ECDT was awarded a further £27,252 from the Landfill Communities Fund towards the play park project at Mill Meadow.