The drop-in and workshop sessions organised by Scottish Borders Council at eight locations for those people who are interested in the future development of the Scottish Borders have now finished. The purpose of these sessions was to encourage the public to contribute to the Local Development Plan process. Attendance levels have varied, as one might expect; the sessions at Peebles and Galashiels were very well attended, but others less so. The issues raised have covered a wide range of topics, from the need for a new bridge over the Tweed in Peebles, a by-pass for Selkirk and the safeguarding of the Waverley Route all the way to the border with England to the need for more flexibility towards uses within the region’s town centres and the greater use of brownfield sites rather than greenfield sites for new housing. There are differing opinions, of course, but the purpose of the workshop sessions was to allow these opinions to be expressed and debated.
Housing land allocation does not appear to be a major issue. If the Scottish Ministers go along with the additional housing land allocations proposed by the council in the Housing Supplementary Guidance, approved by Scottish Borders Council in August (see post on Draft Housing Supplementary Guidance, 30 August 2017), it would seem that few additional sites will be required in the new Local Development Plan. This assumes that none of the existing allocated sites are removed from the Plan but there are question marks over sites that have been in the Local Development Plan for some years yet remain undeveloped. If such sites are removed, replacements are likely to be required.
Town centre regeneration is a major issue, particularly in towns such as Galashiels, Hawick and Selkirk, but there are no easy answers. There are different views on the alternative use of empty shop premises on the prime retail frontages in these town centres, on the encouragement of a mix of uses within town centres, including more residential uses, and the provision and regulation of car parking. The key would appear to be the generation of increased footfall but how to do this remains a thorny problem.
The pressure for more wind farms continues unabated and this will be a major issue for the new Local Development Plan; turbines up to 200 metres to tip height are now being considered by developers. Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) requires Local Development Plans to set out a spatial framework for wind farms which identifies: (1) areas where wind farms will not be acceptable, (2) areas of significant protection where wind farms may be appropriate in some circumstances, and (3) areas where wind farms are likely to be acceptable, subject to detailed consideration against identified criteria. Scottish Borders Council has prepared Draft Supplementary Guidance on Renewable Energy, which includes a wind energy spatial framework. When finalised, this will require to be incorporated within the Local Development Plan. Meanwhile, proposals for wind farms continue to cause a great deal of anxiety amongst a number of communities.
The next step in the local development plan process is for the Council to produce a Main Issues Report (MIR), which identifies the issues that require to be tackled by the Plan and identifies preferred and alternative solutions. The issues to be considered include:
- identification of housing land;
- employment land provision;
- regeneration of town centres;
- protection of the built environment;
- promotion of placemaking and good design;
- road and transport improvements;
- renewable energy and addressing climate change;
- protection of greenspace;
- protection of the natural environment; and
- protection of the Borders landscape.
Public engagement is a key part of the development plan process. If you don’t make your views known, they can’t be considered. The closing date for the submission of views and comments at this stage of the process is 27 October 2017. All the submissions made at the drop-in sessions and at the workshops, and those submitted in writing, including the questionnaires distributed at the drop-in sessions, will be considered in the preparation of the MIR.
It will be the spring of next year (2018) before the MIR is finalised by the Council. A wide-ranging consultation programme will follow during the summer of 2018 before the preparation of the local development plan itself commences in the autumn of 2018 and it will be the autumn of 2019 before the proposed new local development plan (LDP2) is completed. Once adopted, the new Local Development Plan (LDP2) will replace the current Local Development Plan, adopted on 12 May 2016. The new plan, LDP2, will guide future development for the period 2012-2026.