AN AWKWARD moment happened at a recent public meeting involving the leader of Scottish Borders Council (SBC).

When a member of the public joined the last Peebles Community Council meeting to complain about the state of certain properties in the town, one of the places she listed is the home of Shona Haslam – who was present at the online gathering.

Rosie Barley mentioned the former court building without knowing it is owned by Mrs Haslam, a Conservative councillor for Tweeddale East and the leader of SBC.

The building was empty for almost three years before Mrs Haslam and her husband Marc purchased it in 2017, with a view to restoring and preserving the architectural features.

Community councillors grimaced at the mention of the four-story building among those that needed attention. 

Ms Barley said: “There are properties on the High Street that have been empty for some time and look really unkempt.

"Most of Peebles looks really well cared for but there’s a couple of properties that just seem to be neglected.

“I wondered whether there were any plans for the community council to perhaps speak to the owners of those properties to ask them to improve how they look because I think it really does make a difference to the local community on how things are looked after and helps the retailers with that general atmosphere. 

“So properties like the Tatler café has been up for a long time for sale, and also the courthouse has got boarded up windows, broken windows, so that’s been for several years. I just wondered if there was any advice around improving that.”

Community council chairman Les Turnbull replied: “I’m not sure what we can do about that.

"As a community council we don’t have any authority to do anything. We exist to represent the views of the community. I’m sure our elected members will be hearing what you’ve said and will try and address them.”

At this point, Mrs Haslam informed Ms Barley that she owns the property that was the former sheriff court.

Ms Barley apologised, to which Mrs Haslam said: “That’s OK, everyone else knows that and that’s why people were smiling when you raised it.

“The building industry has been shut down for the last 14 months and it’s incredibly difficult to get workmen to come and work on properties at the moment, particularly if they’re occupied.”

"Obviously, the courthouse is in a much better state now than it would have been had it been left empty, which it was for three years before we took it on, and it has some major problems that we’re dealing with but it is getting there, and I promise everyone a very large party when it’s finished.”

Ms Barley said: “I am sorry because I didn’t realise it was your property that I was talking about. For me, it’s just the frontage perception. Walking past it for the last few years it hasn’t changed.”