HAWICK and Jedburgh have been announced as the first towns to be regenerated under new plans by SBC today.

The town centre regeneration intervention and investment plan was agreed by Councillors as part of a new rolling three year action plan for town centres in the Borders.

At the meeting of the Executive Committee, Elected Members agreed that a new Town Centre Resilience Index, using key statistics, will be used to establish where Scottish Borders Council’s limited resources should be targeted for maximum impact.

These projects will be identified in a three-year rolling Town Centre Action Plan, which will be reviewed and updated annually. SBC is aiming to enable businesses and communities to make positive changes and investment themselves, intervening where only the public sector can unlock opportunities or solve problems.

It will also signpost businesses and communities to funding and advice, build local capacity and encourage local leadership.

The initial version of the index shows that Hawick, followed by Jedburgh and Eyemouth should be the main focus.

Councillor Stuart Bell, SBC’s Executive Member for Economic Development, said: “It is critical that the Council prioritises its resources to tackle key issues in our town centres, and this new method, using statistics to identify the health of our various town economies, will enable us to make the biggest difference.

“Through the Hawick Action Plan, working with partners including Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland, we're already working hard to tackle issues there, which the recently announced funding will assist with.

“In Jedburgh we've worked closely with the community and have recently submitted an application for a Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme to Historic Environment Scotland, following on from the success of the Selkirk scheme.

“This is a very competitive funding stream and we are not guaranteed to be successful, but the excellent work between officers and key community groups has certainly given us the very best possible chance of securing what would be an exciting opportunity for Jedburgh.

Councillor Bell added: “As we have seen with the review of the pilot Galashiels Town Centre Co-ordinator role, there is no doubt that targeted use of resources can have a positive impact on a town, including supporting the local community to take a leading role in making improvements.

“However, in view of the range of challenges facing towns across the area, and the limited Council resources, it is not a model which can be rolled out more widely.”

The new approach to analyse the needs of towns in the Scottish Borders has been welcomed by Gordon Henderson, Senior Development Manager for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Commenting on the new plans, Mr Henderson said: “This piece of work to look at ten key Borders towns together in a single plan is a very welcome approach and I'll be watching it's progress with interest.

“Our town centres must adapt with the times to ensure they remain relevant and often this means alternatives to the old retail-only approach must be explored.

“It is unfortunate that the town centre co-ordinator role will not be continued but I am sure this can be looked at again during the ongoing review process of this new strategy.”