Hawick burger bar bid at risk due to agency sticking to its guns over objection

Watson McAteer at Commercial Road development site.
Watson McAteer at Commercial Road development site.
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Fans of Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets fear being left cheesed off and with plenty to beef about now cold water is being poured on long-harboured hopes of a McDonald’s burger bar opening in Hawick.

Hawick provost Watson McAteer has hit out at environmental officials for risking plans for a fast-food restaurant being taken off the menu, claiming it is holding the town’s economic future to ransom by refusing to endorse a scheme set to create up to 60 jobs.

The Hawick and Hermitage councillor is questioning the logic behind the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) maintaining its objection to plans to open a 24-hour drive-through fast-food restaurant, tipped to be a McDonald’s, in Commercial Road and relocate a discount store there too.

Those plans hit a stumbling block in July as the result of an objection to the scheme being lodged by the agency on the grounds of potential flood risk despite new river defences being on the way in Hawick as part of a £44m project due for completion in 2022.

It had been hoped fresh three-way talks between the agency, Scottish Borders Council planners and the developer involved, Edinburgh-based Image Estates Queen Street, allied to appeals from town councillors, would prompt a rethink.

However, in a statement issued to the Southern this week, an agency spokesperson reiterated its earlier objection “on the grounds that it may place buildings and persons at flood risk”.

That means the application must now be referred to the Scottish Government, assuming it is approved first by council planners.

Mr McAteer says he is perplexed by the agency’s stance and intends to call on Hawick-based Scottish National Party list MSP Paul Wheelhouse to intervene.

He said: “Hawick’s economic future is being held to ransom by SEPA, a Scottish Government non-departmental public body with a responsibility to contribute to sustainable economic growth, following their refusal to support new businesses in Commercial Road.

“We have the prospect of a new B&M store and a McDonald’s fast-food outlet on a site soon to be fully protected by a £50m flood scheme, but SEPA have the blinkers well and truly in place by refusing to approve the development plans for fear of flooding.

“These new businesses are to be placed alongside new builds that have previously been required to receive Scottish Government approval.

“I am totally mystified with the stance being taken by SEPA that appears at odds with Scottish Borders Council’s supportive position and will take this matter up directly with SEPA and Paul Wheelhouse, who is also a Scottish Government minister.”

It emerged earlier this year that a fast-food retailer, believed to be McDonald’s, was eyeing up a new home in Commercial Road on the site of the former Bruce Motors car showroom.

The town’s B&M Bargains store is also considering moving out of its current Croft Road home to the proposed development site, located between the Sainsbury’s and Aldi supermarkets.

An agency spokesperson said: “SEPA plays an important role in helping Scotland prepare more powerfully for future increased flooding.

“We have provided a response to Scottish Borders Council regarding a proposed fast-food development in Hawick. As a statutory consultee under planning regulations, SEPA has maintained its objection in principle to the proposed development at this location on the grounds that it may place buildings and persons at flood risk.”

Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall added: “Both Councillor McAteer and I are now seeking urgent meetings with SEPA and council officials in order to try and break this deadlock.

“I think it is also important that our parliamentarians now step up to the plate and intervene in order to get this issue sorted before we in Hawick lose a golden opportunity.”