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August 11, 2009

Community to call time

The only meeting place for the tiny community of Tweedsmuir in the Scottish Borders is the local pub – The Crook Inn.  Over 400 years old and a former watering hole of Rabbie Burns and Sir Walter Scott, the pub has been the hub of community life for as long as anyone can remember.  Faced with the current owner’s plans to convert the site into housing,  the community had little option but to try to buy it.  Hopes of success have just been given a boost

THE LONG-RUNNING saga of one of Scotland’s oldest pubs took another turn this week.

A new planning application has been lodged with Scottish Borders Council for a residential development at the Crook Inn in Tweedsmuir.

And an olive branch has been extended to campaigners who are fighting for its re-opening.

The 400-year-old inn which once boasted regulars including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and John Buchan has been at the centre of a lengthy tussle between its owner James Doonan and the local community.

Businessman James Doonan bought the popular inn – the only pub for 20 miles between Moffat on the A74 and Penicuik in Midlothian – two years ago.

He has since had several attempts turned down in his bid to convert the former coaching inn into flats. And his appeal to the Scottish Government last year was also refused.

Concerned locals formed the Tweedsmuir Community Company (TCC), after winning Community Right-to-Buy status from Holyrood at the start of last year – allowing them first refusal if the inn is placed on the open market.

The TCC hope to raise the necessary funds to buy and resurrect the inn with the benefit of support from the Lottery and other sources.

This week, though, Doonan, himself a Tweedsmuir resident, modified his plans for the site to accommodate the revival of the inn as part of a co-ordinated development approach, and has offered the Tweedsmuir Community Company an opportunity to acquire the Crook Inn along with a new associated car parking area.

The new planning proposal will see the existing dilapidated outbuildings on the site converted into two cottages, and the unsightly former manager’s accommodation replaced with a new house of more appropriate style.

Another two steading style cottages and a new farmhouse will also be built in a development aimed at creating a carefully arranged building group of traditional character that will enhance the setting of the listed inn.

The inn itself will form an integral part of the overall building group, while remaining the familiar roadside feature it has always been.

James Doonan said: “I have been impressed with the energy and commitment that has been demonstrated in the recent campaign to save the Crook Inn and am keen to give the Tweedsmuir Community Company the opportunity to secure its future.

“As a local resident myself I will be pleased if we can all work together to make it happen.

“I believe that these revised proposals will provide for a balanced development of the site that will benefit the community, improve the area behind the inn, and enable a viable way forward for everyone.”

Duncan Davidson, chair of the Tweedsmuir Community Company, welcomed Doonan’s plans but wished to view the final drawings before committing fully to this new proposal.

He said: “We welcome Mr Doonan’s expressed idea to facilitate our aims but our vision has now grown beyond that of re-opening the inn as just a pub.

“Our vision is to make it a hub for community activities. Therefore we would be concerned about the layout and placement of buildings around the inn, as they could negate any further development plans for ourselves.”