At the end of 2017, Scottish Borders Council approved Supplementary Guidance and a Simplified Planning Zone Scheme for the Central Borders Business Park at Tweedbank. The purpose of the Supplementary Guidance is to provide a framework for the future development of sites within the Central Borders Business Park, which includes Tweedbank Industrial Estate, Tweedside Business Park (to the north of Tweedbank Drive) and land between Tweedside Business Park and Tweedbank Train Station. The purpose of the Simplified Planning Zone (SPZ) is to allow development to take place within the Central Borders Business Park without the need for planning permission so long as it complies with certain parameters and conditions.
It is the council’s view that the arrival of the Borders Railway offers a significant opportunity to capitalise on the existing industrial park and provide a supply of high quality business and industrial land to serve the Central Borders. It is proposed that the current industrial park will be redeveloped with the refurbishment and reconfiguration of existing buildings to provide twenty-first century manufacturing and office facilities. It will be marketed as the Borders Innovation Park. The Supplementary Guidance indicates how sites could be developed, identifies opportunities, highlights potential constraints and encourages high quality design and layout. The SPZ effectively grants planning permission in advance for specific types of development within defined areas. Within specified areas of the Central Borders Business Park the permitted uses include business, general industrial, storage/distribution, hotel and limited retail floor space uses. Developments that fall outwith the scope of the SPZ would require planning permission in the normal way. All proposals would require Building Standards approval but procedures allow for the fast-tracking of building warrant applications relating to inward investment proposals. The SPZ, therefore, offers scope to change the use of premises, build new premises and/or alter and extend existing buildings without the need for a formal planning application subject to compliance with the detailed parameters and conditions detailed in the document.
The Council approved the Supplementary Guidance and the Simplified Planning Zone Scheme on 30 November 2017 for submission to the Scottish Ministers for approval. Once approved by the Scottish Ministers, the Supplementary Guidance would formally become part of the Adopted Local Development Plan 2016.
As part of the Borders Railway Blueprint programme, masterplans for Tweedbank and Galashiels commissioned from independent consultants were presented to the Scottish Borders Council on 25 January 2018. These masterplans present a number of proposals to attract inward investment through both public and private sector funding and encourage people to work, live and visit the Borders. The Masterplan for Tweedbank, prepared by Proctor Matthews Architects, incorporates land on the Lowood Estate between the railway line and the River Tweed. This area of approximately 34 hectares is identified for a mix of residential and business development in the Adopted Local Development Plan 2016, as amended by the Housing Supplementary Guidance, approved by Scottish Ministers on 9 November 2017. The Tweedbank Masterplan, as well as identifying the potential for some 300 houses and land for new business development at Lowood, also highlights the opportunity to create a new square at the train station with cafes, offices and apartments. It is expected that this initiative, together with increased car parking provision, will reinforce Tweedbank as a hub for visitors arriving by train to explore the surrounding tourist attractions and countryside of the Borders. The Tweedbank Masterplan will be taken forward in the Local Development Plan 2, which is in the course of preparation and will replace the adopted local development plan.
At the same meeting, the council also discussed an outline masterplan for the future regeneration of the centre of Galashiels. The masterplan, prepared by Stallan Brand Architects, provides a vision for the future of the town centre and demonstrates how the area could be developed to maximise the full economic potential of the Borders Railway. It focusses on the delivery of residential, retail and business space to help regenerate the town centre, with the opening of the Great Tapestry of Scotland Visitor Centre as the catalyst for further projects. The masterplan highlights the potential opportunities for development and improvement of six zones within the town centre: Stirling Street; Channel Street/Market Square; Overhaugh Street; Bridge Street; Sime Place and Park Street; and an area alongside the Gala Water stretching from Buckholmside to Langhaugh and alongside the Mill Lade from Bank Street to Roxburgh Street.
The masterplan reviews eight potential sites for a hotel in the town centre without reaching any conclusion as to the most appropriate and feasible site. It also includes a proposal for the extension of Market Square between Channel Street and Overhaugh Street into a larger and more flexible events and activities space. Consultations on the masterplan have been held with the community and local businesses, arts and tourism organisations and councillors agreed that the masterplan proposals should be taken into account in the preparation of the Local Development Plan 2.
The preparation of Local Development Plan 2 is progressing. According to the council’s Development Plan Scheme November 2017, the next stage in the process is the preparation of a Main Issues Report (MIR), which will focus on the key areas of change from the adopted local development plan and will present a range of development options for comment and discussion. The publication of this document is a key stage in terms of public consultation as it is from the views and comments expressed on the development options in the MIR that the council will decide on the way forward. The formal consultation on the MIR is planned for the summer of this year (2018) so keep an eye out for the announcements that will emanate from the council publicising the publication of this document and the opportunities to submit representations on the various development options.
This post on development planning in the Scottish Borders would not be complete without a tribute to John Crawford, known to many as ‘Choppy’, who died on 3 February 2018. John, a Melrosian through and through, was the driving force behind house-builders, J. S. Crawford, for fifty years. He took over from his father Jim, who founded the company in 1946, in 1963 and built the firm into the largest construction company in the Scottish Borders and the largest private house builder before the volume house builders moved in during the 1990s. Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Crawford Builders built houses in almost every town and village in the Central Borders, from Kelso to Hawick and from Jedburgh to Melrose, Galashiels and Selkirk. John was an astute businessman and I remember well the challenges he presented to the Borders Regional Council’s Planning and Development Department. We did not always see eye-to-eye but John was always a fair adversary. He will be sadly missed and my sincere condolences go to his wife and family.