U-turn over Kelso car park closure plans wins votes of town traders

Council chiefs have done a U-turn and reversed their plans for a 24-hour closure of Kelso’s busiest public car park on UK Government general election day following an outcry from shoppers and traders.

Wednesday, 4th December 2019, 4:16 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th December 2019, 4:25 pm
Community councillor Colin McGrath at the Knowes car park in Kelso.

A count for the election – on Thursday, December 12 – for the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk seat is being held at the town’s Borders Events Centre at Springwood Park.

However, the parking area outside the venue is waterlogged at the moment, so election counters, candidates and party supporters are being asked to park up in the Knowes car park instead.

Scottish Borders Council chiefs originally announced that the car park would be shut to the public from noon on December 12 to noon the next day.

That sparked an outcry, however, amid fears the closure would have a damaging impact on festive trade for retailers and also cause problems for people wanting to cast their votes at nearby Abbey Row Community Centre.

The authority has now reacted to that negative response by cutting back the planned closure time from 5pm on the Thursday to 9am the following day.

Kelso community councillor Colin McGrath has welcomed that about-turn but said he was disappointed that council members had not been consulted before the original decision was made.

A spokesperson for Scottish Borders Council said: “The car park closure is required for the purpose of parking for vehicles associated with the general election count due to the Springwood car park being waterlogged.

“We can confirm that the times of the closure have been amended now so it now runs from 5pm on December 12 to 9am on the 13th. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Mr McGrath said: “These new times are much more acceptable because they will not have anything like the same impact as the closure times that were originally announced.

“The council wouldn’t have had to take this U-turn if it had consulted with the community council before announcing the original statement.

“However, I’m glad that community power has resulted in proper consultation and goodwill on both sides.”

Kelso provost Dean Weatherston raised concerns with the council over the original car park closure times, so he too is pleased by its change of plan.

He said: “The same thing happened with the Christmas trees when they could not get the same height of trees this year. If they had let us know sooner, we could have come up with alternative solutions.

“It always seems to be the last minute when we find out, and that means it can be too late. Hopefully, lessons have been learned.”

Tina Newton, chairperson of Visit Kelso, added: “While many locals will know of alternate parking, it will be more difficult for those not so familiar with the layout of Kelso and, as this is going to be one of the busiest Thursdays shops and other outlets will see through the year, the loss of parking could have had a very detrimental effect on local businesses.”

“I hope Scottish Borders Council are providing alternate signage directing drivers to different locations in which to park.”