THE permanent closure of a centre for children and young people with behavioural needs in the Borders has moved a step closer reality.

When members of Scottish Borders Council’s (SBC) Education Sub-Committee met this week they endorsed the launch of a six-week consultation over a proposal for the closure of the Wilton Centre in Hawick's Princes Street.

The centre has been temporarily closed due to the relocation of social, emotional and behavioural needs (SEBN) services to mainstream schools following the Covid pandemic.

The service has subsequently been delegated out to individual schools.

Hawick & Denholm councillor Clair Ramage said: “I quite understand that the centre is no longer deemed fit for purpose and that a lot of money would need to be spent on it to bring it up to acceptable standards.”

Ms Ramage said she would support the creation of another separate behavioural needs centre in the future, citing positive elements of the service, but added: “I actually went into the building with an interested party and it was in a really disreputable state. There is no way it could be reopened.”

A report to the committee also justified the proposed closure due to the “unsuitable condition of the Wilton Centre building precluding it as a viable sustainable asset of the school estate without significant capital investment”.

The Wilton Centre – known locally as ‘The Arches’ – was closed in August 2021.

A report, from Lesley Munro, SBC’s director of education & children’s services, states: “The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the Wilton Centre’s doors being closed and to ensure continuation of service, the SEBN Service was reformatted to provide that service within the service users mainstream schools.

“The aim was also to provide a more inclusive service providing children with SEBN support within their existing school set up instead of requiring them to travel (sometimes excessively long distances) across the large Borders region to attend placements within the Wilton building in Hawick itself.

“The families of those attending the placements at that time were asked whether they agreed with this reformat proposal and their preference was that they concurred.

“They advised that they wished a far more inclusive service within their young people’s mainstream clusters schools rather than travelling to the Wilton Centre each day.”

The Wilton Centre had been regularly reviewed for the last 20 years and is deemed to require “significant investment to modernise it and make it fit for the modern age as an educational setting for the future”.

Turner and Townsend provided a suitability survey dated January 29, 2024, which rated the building as ‘D’. This is the lowest rating in terms of suitability.

The consultation will be held from May 8 to June 28.