SCOTTISH Borders Council has agreed to chip in an extra £42,300 for a Hawick regeneration scheme, in order to receive a million pound grant from Scottish ministers.

The local authority has already been awarded £1.3m from Historic Environment Scotland to fund the Hawick Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS).

However, the council intended to provide just £157,000 to the pot, to acquire a £1.41m grant, but instead has had to stump up an extra £42,300 in order to secure £1.3m.

Along with private sector contributions of £358,750, the project will have a budget of £1.93m to go towards restoring shop fronts and historic buildings in the town centre.

At a meeting of Scottish Borders Council executive committee on Tuesday, April 16, councillors waved through the extra money and emphasised the positives the CARS scheme will bring to Hawick.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor George Turnbull told the meeting: “This is a great news item for Hawick and will help with the town centre regeneration.

“I’d just like to publicly record my thanks to the team which has put in so much work to achieve this, I wish the project well and every success over the next five years.”

Kelso and District councillor Tom Weatherston, who has experienced the CARS scheme in Kelso, added: “I welcome this as great news for Hawick. Talking from experience, the biggest problem building in Kelso didn’t get done because we couldn’t get hold of the owners and get them on board.

“My advice would be that if there is an owner who can’t afford the 10 per cent contribution then I’d say they need to try hard to help the owners and identify other sources of money to help them.”

A similar scheme has already been completed in Selkirk, where £2.4m of public sector funding was invested in the town between 2013 and 2018.

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.