During March 2018, the Scottish Borders Council received 148 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees. The following applications are of particular interest:
- The erection of an 80 metres high anemometer mast at Windy Edge, north of Braidlie Farmhouse in the Hermitage Water valley, south of Hawick (clearly, the precursor of a wind energy proposal!) (SBC Ref:18/00253/FUL);
- The erection of nine dwellinghouses in the small village of Birgham in Berwickshire (SBC Ref: 18/00305/FUL);
- The erection of 19 flats on the site of the former Burns Mill Building in Roxburgh Street, Galashiels (a site that has lain derelict for many years) (SBC Ref: 18/00230/FUL);
- The demolition of B listed St. Aidan’s Church and Church Hall on Gala Park, Galashiels (SBC Ref: 18/00309/LBC);
- The Change of Use of Castle Venlaw Hotel in Peebles and alterations to form 11 residential apartments (SBC Ref: 18/00182/FUL);
As reported in the February update, in recent months, there have been a number of pre-application notices submitted to the Council in relation to major developments. A proposal of application notice must contain an account of what consultations the applicant intends to undertake, when such consultation is to take place, with whom and what form it will take. The prospective applicant must consult the community council, within whose area the proposal is located, and hold at least one public event where members of the public may make comments to the prospective applicant. The recent Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) for the proposed hotel, retail, restaurant and petrol filling station at Tweedbank (SBC Ref: 18/00204/PAN) satisfied the minimum requirements of the Development Management Procedure Regulations in specifying the community councils to be consulted and the location, date and time of the proposed public event; Tweedbank Community Centre on Wednesday 14 March between 2pm and 8pm.
However, it would seem that some applicants are being somewhat reticent in providing all the information required when the PAN is submitted. It is more often the case that PANs fail to specify when and where the required public event is to take place but leave it flexible; a public event is to be arranged; will be held next month, probably on such a date. A notice of the proposed public event must be published in a local newspaper circulating in the locality in which the proposed development is situated at least 7 days before the holding of the public event. Sometimes, this is the first intimation of the precise location, date and time of the proposed public event.
For instance, the PAN for a major development on the Auction Mart site at Newtown St. Boswells (SBC Ref: 18/00144/PAN) indicated that “Full details of the public consultation process…..will be made known….in due course. The indicative date for the public consultation event stated in the PAN was 12 March 2018. Subsequently, the date of the event was moved to 19 March and eventually to 26 March (with an advertisement in the Southern Reporter on 15 March). It may well be that, in this instance, no-one was disadvantaged but perhaps the interests of the public might have been better served by providing full details of the proposed public event in the PAN, as required by the planning regulations. The PAN for a major tourist development comprising 263 holiday lodges, 206 touring caravan pitches, 15 tree houses, 20 glamping pods and associated facilities at Rutherford House, near West Linton (SBC Ref: 18/00109/PAN) simply indicated that “We intend to send a PAN to West Linton Community Council in due course” and “a public consultation event will be held in mid-March at West Linton Primary School.” The proposal has attracted some publicity in the press but, as yet, no such public consultation event has been organised or advertised. The PAN for a major tourist development of 500 static caravans, 50 touring caravans and associated facilities on land at Thirlestane Castle, Lauder submitted on 5 December 2017 (SBC Ref: 17/01669/PAN) simply stated that the drop-in public exhibition is “anticipated to be held from 3pm to 8pm at a suitable venue in Lauder. The date and venue are to be confirmed. Stakeholders will be notified of the event at least one week in advance, with an advert also placed in the Border Telegraph.” To date, I am not aware of the publication of the date and venue for the proposed public event and a planning application for the proposal has yet to surface.
According to the Scottish Government’s Planning Circular 3/2013 on Development Management Procedures, the Scottish Government wants to encourage improved trust and open, positive working relationships from the earliest stages in the planning process and to provide, where possible, an early opportunity for community views to be reflected in proposals. The objective of Pre-Application Consultation is for communities to be better informed about major developments and have the opportunity to contribute their views before a formal planning application is submitted. This should help to improve the quality of planning applications, address misunderstandings and provide the opportunity for community issues to be aired and addressed. Quite rightly, some communities are not happy with the way this procedure is operating in the Scottish Borders and the Planning Authority must find a way of ensuring that prospective developers abide by the spirit as well as the formal requirements of the statutory procedures.
During March 2018, the council decided 98 applications, only two of which were refused planning permission, under delegated powers to the Chief Planning Officer; for the extension of a dwellinghouse on Edinburgh Road, Peebles, and the erection of two chalets for holiday accommodation at Falahill Cottages, Heriot. At its meeting on 12 March, the Council’s Local Review Body (LRB) upheld the officer’s decision (on 8 June 2017) to refuse planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land north-east of J Rutherford’s workshop in Earlston but varied the reasons for refusal in respect of flood risk.
On 26 March, the Council’s Planning and Building Standards Committee approved a number of applications, including; (i) a major £11.3m holiday complex at Glentress Forest outside Peebles, comprising 56 timber cabins, associated facilities and 10 miles of new mountain bike trails (see SBC Refs: 17/01625/FUL and 17/01633/FUL); (ii) the erection of up to 15 dwellinghouses at Bowbank Cottages, Eddleston in Peeblesshire, subject to access improvements (SBC Ref: 17/00767/PPP); (iii) the erection of 34 flats by Eildon Housing Association on a site in Huddersfield Street, Galashiels (SBC Ref: 17/00695/FUL); and (iv) the erection of affordable housing by Eildon Housing Association on a site at Craigpark Gardens, Galashiels (SBC Refs: 17/01709/FUL & 17/01757/MOD75).
As anticipated , the refusal of planning permission for the demolition of existing buildings and the erection of four dwellings at Elders Yard in Newtown St. Boswells (SBC Ref: 17/01342/PPP) is now the subject of an appeal to Scottish Ministers (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-270). This brings the number of appeals to Scottish Ministers against the refusal of planning permission to eight (which must be an all-time record!). The others that remain outstanding are: (1) for the construction of a wind farm comprising 12 turbines at Pines Burn, south west of Hobkirk (SBC Ref: 17/00010/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2069); (2) for the erection of 7 wind turbines on land north-west of Gilston Farm, near Heriot (SBC Ref: 17/00226/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2068); (3) for residential development on land to the east of the Edinburgh Road in Peebles (SBC Ref: 17/00015/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2067); (4) for the erection of a poultry building at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2065); (5) for the erection of a poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2062); (6) a residential development of 38 dwellings at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2059); and (7) a proposed windfarm of 8 turbines at Howpark, Grantshouse, also in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2060).
An appeal against an enforcement notice in respect of the painting of the exterior of 13 St. Ella’s Place, Eyemouth, a listed building within the Eyemouth Conservation area, was allowed on 29 March 2018 but only to the extent that the period for compliance was extended from one month to six months (ENA-140-2011). The enforcement notice was upheld. An appeal against an amenity notice in respect of the erection of scaffolding and metal panel fence on land at Kirkburn, near Peebles, submitted on 19 January 2018, remains to be decided (DPEA Ref: ANA-140-2000).
Three wind farm applications submitted to the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the 1989 Act, to which the Scottish Borders Council has objected, remain outstanding: (1) the application for a 12 turbine extension to the existing Fallago Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills; (2) the application to extend the operational life of the existing Fallago Rig wind farm to coincide with that of the extension (if approved) (DPEA case references WIN-140-5 & WIN-140-6); and (3) an application for the erection of 15 wind turbines on land at Birneyknowe, near Bonchester Bridge, south-east of Hawick (DPEA case reference WIN-140-7). In relation to the Fallago Rig applications, the inquiry and hearing sessions were held in August 2017. In December 2017, the Scottish Government published the Scottish Energy Strategy and its Onshore Wind Policy Statement and the Reporter has offered the parties involved an opportunity to submit observations on the implications which may arise from these documents for the determination of the applications. The exchange of representations and comments is continuing. In relation to the Birneyknowe wind farm application (WIN-140-7), the inquiry and hearing sessions took place at Minto Golf Club during March (much interrupted by the inclement weather!). A site inspection of the application area was successfully carried out on 29 March and the deadline for closing submissions was Monday 2 April with the applicant having the last word with a deadline of 9 April 2018. We shall have to await and see whether this will be another knock for the council and the local community.
Whilst on the subject of wind farms, according to official data, renewable electricity generation in Scotland reached record levels in 2017. Statistics published by the UK government showed an increase in Scotland of 26% in 2017, compared with the previous year. The majority of this increase was attributed to greater onshore wind capacity. The data also showed that by the end of 2017, just over 10GW of installed renewables electricity capacity was operational in Scotland. It is estimated that the equivalent of 68.1% of gross electricity consumption in Scotland came from renewable sources, up year-on-year by 14.1 percentage points. In commenting on these figures, Scotland’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, confirmed that renewable energy will continue to play a hugely significant role in powering Scotland’s future.
When the Scottish Borders Local Development Plan was adopted in May 2016, it included an intention to produce up-to-date Supplementary Guidance on Renewable Energy, including wind energy, within one year of the adoption of the local development plan. The council published Draft Supplementary Guidance on Renewable Energy in December 2016 for consultation with interested parties and, after a prolonged period of deliberation, a final version of the Supplementary Guidance has now been approved by Scottish Borders Council for submission to Scottish Ministers. You can find out more about this on my Renewable Energy Update April 2018.