HAWICK’S town centre could be in line for a major face-lift as Scottish Borders Council begins work towards a regeneration project.

A report by the authority’s chief economic development officer, Bryan McGrath, seeks formal approval from the council’s executive to begin applying for funding grants.

In particular, the report advises Scottish Borders Council to seek funding from Historic Environment Scotland’s Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) fund, which it is hoped will provide £1.41m towards restoring shop fronts and historic buildings in the town centre.

The council will also add £157,700 to the pot which, along with private sector contributions of £358,750, will give the project a budget of £1.93m.

According to the report, a similar scheme in Selkirk, which saw £2.4m of public sector funding invested between 2013 and 2018, returned considerable results.

Over that period, the number of at-risk buildings in Selkirk’s town centre has reduced from seven to two, average footfall has risen from a low of 2090 to 2710, and the percentage of vacant shops has reduced to below the Scottish Borders’ average.

Hawick, on the other hand, has seen a marked deterioration in its town centre.

Average weekly footfall has declined, year on year, from 9,990 in 2008 to current levels of 4,680, and the latest retail audit in December 2017 showed there were 37 vacant units in the town centre.

Furthermore, 26 of those units have been vacant for over a year, and there are currently seven ‘at risk’ buildings within the historic centre.

In the report, due to go in front of councillors at a meeting of the executive committee tomorrow (Tuesday, November 6), Mr McGrath writes that a regeneration scheme could benefit the whole town: “Hawick town centre has declined in recent years with a significant reduction in footfall and a noticeable cluster of vacancies at the southern end of the High Street.

“There are a number of prominent buildings including the former Liberal Club which have deteriorated and require major external repair works.

“A heritage focused regeneration proposal has been developed for Hawick following the model used for other successful heritage based town centre initiatives delivered in Kelso and Selkirk and currently in Jedburgh.

“The proposal will seek to begin to reverse the decline by conserving and enhancing key properties within the Hawick conservation area and act as a catalyst for wider regeneration in the town.”

The report highlights the key properties which would be renovated as parts of the CARS project. These include: the Crown Business Centre at 20-22 High Street; the former Queen’s Head pub at 32 High Street; the former Liberal Club at 80 High Street; the former KT Krafts at 24 High Street; the former Beauty Lounge at 26 High Street and 4 Round Close.

If councillors agree to submit the application, it is expected the council will know if the bid has been successful or not by February 2019, and if all goes well, the programme could begin in Hawick as early as April 2019.