Planning in the Scottish Borders: County Planning becomes established

This second post on the history of planning in the Scottish Borders looks at the progress made by the four Scottish Border County Councils in establishing a planning system for the area.  The Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943 extended the control of development beyond those areas which were the subject of a planning scheme to cover the whole of a local authority’s area.  As a consequence, Planning Committees were set up by Selkirk, Roxburgh and Berwickshire County Councils in 1944 [the first meeting of Selkirk County Council’s Planning Committee was held on Thursday 28 October 1943 but it was at the second meeting on 18 January 1944 that it appointed its first Chairman, Major Scott Plummer, and conducted its first business].  It would be 1948 before Peeblesshire County Council established its Planning Committee.

The first task for the new committees was to initiate surveys of their area (of the use of land, the use and condition of buildings, the provision of services such as water and drainage, gas and electricity, school provision and bus routes) and establish systems for dealing with planning applications submitted under the Interim Development powers conferred by the 1943 Act.  In the first instance, Planning Committees were advised by the County Clerk, assisted by the County Surveyor or County Architect, but private architect firms would soon be employed to carry out the initial surveys of their areas and provide advice on planning applications.  Selkirk County Council employed John C Hall, Architect of Galashiels, to undertake the initial survey of the county.  John C Hall, and subsequently his son John B. Hall, trading as J & J Hall, Architects of Galashiels, would become County Planning Officer for Selkirk County Council.  Roxburgh and Berwickshire County Councils would follow the same practice of employing local architects.  There were only eighteen qualified town planners working in Scotland in 1950, most of whom were in the Department of Health for Scotland.  Frank Tindall, appointed County Planning Officer of neighbouring East Lothian County Council in 1950, would be one of the first County Planning Officers in Scotland, but it would be the 1960s before Roxburgh and Berwickshire County Councils appointed County Planning Officers and Peeblesshire County Council would be advised by the County Planning Officer of Midlothian County Council.

As explained in the first post on the history of planning in the Scottish Borders, the recommendations contained in the Barlow, Scott and Uthwatt reports produced during the Second World War indicated that a complete overhaul of the planning system was required to allow reconstruction after the war.  The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947 heralded a new era of planned society and introduced a universal requirement to obtain planning consent for any development.  The Act gave wide ranging planning powers to the four county councils in the Scottish Borders: as well as the power to approve or refuse development proposals, they must prepare development plans; they could also carry out redevelopment themselves and they could use compulsory purchase powers to buy land and make it available for development by developers.  They were also given powers to control outdoor advertisements, preserve woodland and buildings of architectural or historic interest.

County development plans for the four counties in the Scottish Borders were approved by the Secretary of State for Scotland between 1955 and 1965.  The Selkirkshire County Development Plan, one of the first in Scotland, was approved in April 1955 (having been submitted to the Scottish Office in March 1953); the Peeblesshire County Development Plan quickly followed (submitted in June 1953 and approved in December 1955).  County development plans for Berwickshire and Roxburghshire would not be approved until February 1965 (the Berwickshire County Development Plan was submitted in December 1960, the Roxburghshire County Development Plan in December 1961).  These Plans would be updated by review and amendment during the 1960s; a Quinquennial Review of the Selkirkshire County Development Plan would be approved in January 1968 (submitted in May 1964) and a number of amendments would be made to the Roxburghshire County Development Plan, principally in relation to development in the burghs of Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso.

These county development plans were prepared against the background of a declining population, particularly in the rural areas, and a shortage of labour in the predominant industries of the main towns, the Tweed and Hosiery industries.  The four development plans sought to stabilise the population overall and increase the population of the main towns through the allocation of land for housing.  In their original form, the development plans allocated land that would allow for a combined population of 106,000, compared with a 1951 population of 107,575.

The next posts will look in more detail at how the four county councils saw their areas developing during this crucial period of change.


Author: douglas hope

Over fifty years experience in town and country planning, including twenty-one years with the Borders Regional Council (1975-1996) and twenty years with the Scottish Government as a Reporter for the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals.

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