Jedburgh residents set to fight town centre closures
Scottish Borders Council bosses have announced plans to close the town hall in Abbey Place and the library in Castlegate upon the opening of the new Jedburgh Grammar Campus in March.
The town’s community council, after meeting councillors, officers and other community groups last week, is now appealing for a more thorough consultation on the plans, saying it will “urgently prepare a case for the people of Jethart for services that meet their needs”, however.
Community council chairman Rory Stewart said: “For the past two years, we have been asking for a proper consultation on what will become of the old Jedburgh Grammar School site after March 31, 2020.
“It is only now – six weeks before completion of the new campus – that Scottish Borders Council has finally told us about its plans.”
And while its intention to close the Live Borders-run library and contact centre has come as no surprise, with a 500-signature petition already presented to the council in November, the potential closure of the historic town hall has outraged townsfolk.
At a closed meeting last week, officers presented consultants’ ideas for what the future could hold for the two sites, as well as the current Jedburgh Grammar School.
“They said that decisions to move all these services to the campus have already been taken on the basis of cost savings,” Mr Stewart added.
“They may agree to hand over the town hall and library buildings to the community, but if not, they will be sold.
“Community representatives will be meeting again urgently to prepare a case on behalf of the people of Jethart for services that meet their needs.”
Since then, 2,000 questionnaires have been delivered to shops around the town, and an online survey is now live for townsfolk to complete by Sunday, February 16.
Community councillor Georgiana Craster added: “The council has now agreed that they haven’t consulted properly. They got 29 responses to their consultation from a population of 4,000-plus.
“The point of this questionnaire is to try put anger aside and ask ‘do we really want to keep these buildings?’
“Personally, I don’t want them to go. We are trying so hard to bring this town back to its feet through the regeneration scheme, and these closures could swipe it away in seconds.”
The new survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Y5VFL38
Town councillor Scott Hamilton is calling for the local authority to keep an open mind going forward.
“I made it clear at the meeting that it was not satisfactory basing the potential outcomes on so few responses,” he said.
“Some of the options which have come forward are very positive and would help market Jedburgh as a destination town. However, some leave a lot to be desired.
“I am confident that we can find a solution and take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.”
Fellow councillor Sandy Scott added: “The good news is that the campus is progressing on time and on budget, with the opening of this fantastic facility only months away.
“The difficult decision is what do we do with our empty buildings? Parkside school, Howdenburn, Jed Grammar, the library, and possibly the town hall...there are many suggestions coming forward, but any other bright ideas are welcome.”
Jim Brown added: “Before the local council elections in 2017, when we were planning the fantastic new intergenerational campus at Oakieknowe, noone even mentioned the closure of the library/contact centre or town hall.
“After the election, the new Conservative-led administration introduced the “Fit for 24” service-wide scheme to save £20m by 2024.
“Once again we can see how this scheme will directly effect services, whether it be play parks, libraries, civic buildings, potholes, flower beds and as I have said before...the only thing the Tories don’t cut is the grass.”
A regional council spokesperson said: “The council has committed to further discussions with community representatives regarding the potential future options for the current library and contact centre, town hall and grammar school sites.
“Engagement from community representatives is crucial to shaping the future of these buildings, and a further meeting is scheduled to take place within a month.
“The matter of delaying the transfer of library services to the new campus was discussed at this meeting but not taken forward.
“Instead, it was agreed that a further consultation exercise would take place to help the council fully understand these concerns.”
“The new Jedburgh Grammar Campus will provide public library and contact centre facilities once opened. As a result, the existing building will no longer be required by Scottish Borders Council to deliver these services and will become surplus to operational requirements.
“We are aware of community concerns which were raised at the audit and scrutiny committee meeting in November 2019 around the current library/contact centre building.
“The feasibility study considering potential futures uses of these buildings is part of the council’s Fit for 2024 programme.
“The council’s current estate and running costs are not sustainable and we have no choice but to reduce the size of our property portfolio, but we can only do this by working with our communities and partners and we remain committed to doing so and to protecting our town centre environments.
“At the same time, the council will continue to invest in our communities, through projects such as Jedburgh Grammar Campus and the Port House.”
Paper copies of the survey are available from the Spar in Lothian Road, the library, Simply Scottish, From Me to You, Laidlaw Memorial Pool, Abbey View Cafe & Bookshop, The Ancrum Pantry, Harestanes and Queen’s Court.
The survey will end on Sunday, February 16.