HAWICK councillors have warned there is ‘no quick fix’ to the problems facing the town’s market.

Hawick market, which has been trading for the past 40 years, has seen a sharp decline in both stallholders and visitors recently.

French company Geraud has operated the market since 2015, paying £5,000 a year, but the contract expires in September 2020 and local councillors are frantically trying to find a new buyer.

At a meeting of the common good committee last Tuesday, Councillor David Paterson (Ind, Hawick & Hermitage) said: “I went to the market the other week, it’s dying. There’s regular people who go into the market, but from what it used to be it is dying a death.

“We have to ask, is the market still an asset to the town? Years ago we used to get a lot of visitors to the town. I was once talking to guy who owns a nearby pub and he told me to please keep the market, as the market day was his busiest day of the week.

“A lot of traders used to get passing trade from the market, but they’re not getting that now.

“Is there any chance we could find another buyer?”

Council officers said they had only received an enquiry from one trader, from Newcastle, who has since lost touch.

Councillor Stuart Marshall (Ind, Hawick & Denholm) urged the committee to resist any rash decisions: “We all recognise the problems. It’s not going to be a quick fix.

“They’re paying the rent, but Geraud haven’t really bothered much with the market. They said they would do all sorts with the market but that didn’t happen, it didn’t materialise.

“I think we should revisit this later. It’s going to take time to thrash out the answer to the question: will we have a market or won’t we? We have 18 months, we should take our time.”

Councillor Watson McAteer (Ind, Hawick & Hermitage) added: “Geraud have a responsibility to the market in terms of the contract, but they abdicate that responsibility by not sending anybody to the market.

“The market has now been overtaken by car boot sales. In the middle of it we now have a horsebox, it looks awful. I don’t know where it’s come from.

“So the whole control over the market, how it looks, how it’s presented, what it’s going to deliver, will never move on if we leave it like that and try to sell the contract on if that is the proposition.

“I know it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, but they’re not fulfilling their obligations in terms of managing the market.

“There is a bit of a hard edge here that if they’re not going to send someone up then someone’s going to have to go down on a Saturday and look at the health and safety aspects and see if they comply with that.”

Councillors sitting on the Hawick common good fund committee were asked whether they would like to continue marketing the contract for a new market manager or to look at other options, such as closure or changing the frequency of the market.

The committee voted to continue marketing the contract, although Councillor George Turnbull (Cons, Hawick & Hermitage), who chairs the committee, described the situation as frustrating: “Some stall holders have been very loyal to the market over the years and they find it frustrating that Geraud has not done the things it said it was going to do.

“There’s a loyal customer base that still supports them, that’s why they’re still there.

“The last thing we want to be seen to be doing is killing it, but technically it’s killing itself.”