Scottish Borders Council
After the 1894 Local Authority Act official County meetings for Roxburgh were held at Newtown, Kelso and Jedburgh until 1908 when Newtown became the Headquarters for Roxburgh County Council. Administration took place within the old Corner House and Hume House (both demolished) until the Roxburgh County Offices were built around 1930. However the old 1930’s County Offices for Roxburgh are now obscured by the extensive new buildings.
The present Scottish Borders Council (SBC) Headquarters has some 1,000 employees which has expanded from the 300 employees in 1975. Also SBC has their Roads depot adjacent to the building together with workshops and more offices.
Understandably most SBC employees see the village as a work place and the business, right in the centre of village, has a significant effect on the village way of life. The doubling of the population during the week (Newtown population 1,200 villagers) is a major factor resulting in 600 employees and visitors cars coming in and out of village each day requiring large car parks which regularly overflow into village street parking.
The Roads depot in the village centre is operated on a 24hr basis and generates much heavy traffic through the village ranging from road sweepers, high lift vehicles, snow ploughs, low loaders, dustcarts etc. etc. As well as creating general noise and pollution this puts a heavy strain on road surfaces which are regularly breaking up and requiring repair.
However the main benefit for the village from having the Council HQ offices in the village is that it provides increased trade for local businesses due to the increased population during weekdays.
For some time now the village has attempted to liase more closely with SBC about sharing the village and items of common interest but this has not come easy. However recently monthly informal meetings are being held which is resulting in greater working together on things like flower displays, Christmas lights, litter control and generally cleaning up car parks etc. It is hoped this will continue and be developed further in the future.
Newtown is generally classified as a small village however the Council HQ presence along with the Animal Action Mart, the Borders Agricultural College and the expanding local van hire company makes it the equivalent to a much larger town and deserves to be given similar priority in budgets and resource allocation to maintain service standards.
HQ Building - Architect - Peter Womersley
Built as Roxburgh County Offices. Won in a competition in 1961 by Peter Womersley but only half completed. It never realised Womersley's ambition, but was seen by Colin McWilliam, as the `most encouraging of Scotland's local authority buildings'.
The first phase, for a square block of offices and an almost free-standing service tower, providing a focus for distant views within the surrounding landscape, was only completed in 1968.
This was due to a late start after, in Womersley's words, outcries from local ratepayers'. The design is only mildly Brutalist; the building is too sculptural and carefully designed and, detailed. The four floors of offices, in grey, shuttered concrete have bands of horizontal glazing, and originally had an open court in the centre – later filled in.
The 85ft (25-'9m) high tower contains strong rooms and the three lower floors, wireless room and on the third and fifth floors (one added, again at a later date, for Civil Defence purposes); with a wireless room store on the fourth floor; and two water tank rooms on the two top floors, one of these again added for Civil Defence
Lastly, it must be said that other views on the building design have been expressed about how the building dominates the village by virtue of its squat cathedral-like scale and utter disregard for its neighbours.
more to follow ------