County Planning in the 1940s and 50s: Berwickshire County Council

Berwickshire County Council established its Town and Country Planning Committee in June 1944 to deal with the first applications for planning permission under the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943.  Lord Home [the father of Sir Alec Douglas-Home] was elected Chairman of the new committee.  T. D. Anderson, from the council’s Roads Department was appointed Planning Officer, although he had no qualifications in town and country planning.  He had a typist to assist him!  Minor applications were dealt with by the County Clerk, in consultation with the Planning Officer.  T. D. Anderson was also charged with undertaking a survey of the county, apart from Eyemouth Burgh where the Burgh Surveyor was asked to undertake this task.

In March 1946, the Government’s Department of Health for Scotland, which had the responsibility for planning at national level, met the council’s Town and Country Planning Committee to discuss the way forward, little progress having been made on the survey of the county.  The Department of Health considered that additional staff were required and recommended the appointment of two planning assistants and a draughtsman in addition to the Planning Officer and his typist.  However, the council considered that the size of the county did not warrant such a large department and was content with its Planning Officer and typist in support.  Over the next year, the Department of Health for Scotland made further attempts to persuade the council to enlarge its staff but, with only an average of five planning applications a month, the council was not persuaded.

In March 1947, the council decided to merge the Planning and Property & Works Departments and T. D. Anderson took up the post of head of the new department.  Two members of staff were transferred from the council’s Public Health Department to assist with the additional workload but all planning matters remained the responsibility of  T.D. Anderson alone.  In the immediate post-war period, the majority of planning applications submitted related to proposals by the burgh councils for new local authority housing and the majority of these applications were dealt with expeditiously.  However, the burgh councils were consulted on all other applications submitted within their areas and this meant that these applications took longer, which was a cause for concern.

Following the dissolution of the Central and South-East Scotland Regional Advisory Committee, which had overseen the Frank Mears Study, and the enactment of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947, which introduced development plans, the four border counties discussed how development planning might be co-ordinated across the Scottish Borders.  Initial thoughts were that one development plan might be produced for the whole region and architect/planner, F.W.B. Charles, who had led the Frank Mears Study, was approached to prepare a development plan for the region.  However, after considerable deliberation, it was decided (by the County Clerks) that, in view of the progress being made in Selkirkshire and Roxburghshire (and the estimated costs of employing a consultant), it would be more sensible for each county to produce their own development plan.  It was agreed that a joint planning advisory committee should be established to ensure liaison between the counties.

In Berwickshire, with little progress on a survey of the area, the Department of Health for Scotland, in November 1948, again sought to persuade the council to appoint additional staff to undertake the preparation of the development plan and suggested that up to six staff were required.  The council baulked at this but eventually agreed to appoint two planning assistants, who duly took up their posts in July 1949 and set to work on a survey of Eyemouth and Duns burghs.  One of their first tasks was to bring the out-dated Ordnance Survey (OS) maps up-to-date, a major challenge for many planning departments at this time.  In Berwickshire, the latest edition of the 1:25,000 OS maps was produced in 1908!

In December 1949, after further pressure from the Department of Health for Scotland, the council decided to appoint a consultant to prepare the development plan and, after interviewing three candidates, the council appointed architect/planner F.W.B. Charles and he quickly set to work.  Unfortunately for the two planning assistants, appointed by the council in July 1949, they were not required by the planning consultant who had his own team and they were duly given notice to quit in February 1950, after only 9 months in the job.

T. D. Anderson continued to be responsible for dealing with the day-to-day activities of development control. Major Askew became the Chairman of the Planning and Property and Works Committee, as it had been called since March 1947, in May 1950. At this time, county council membership was dominated by the landed gentry, the clergy and other professional people.  For instance, in July 1950, the Planning and Property and Works Committee comprised:

        • Major Askew (Chairman)
        • Brigadier Swinton
        • Lieut. Col. Miller
        • Rev. R. Hamilton
        • Dr. Mitchell Innes
        • Earl of Ellesmere (became Duke of Sutherland)
        • Earl of Home
        • Captain McDougall
        • Rev. W.B. Paton

On the development control front, the emergence and expansion of holiday hut sites was a growing issue across the Scottish Borders in the late 1940s and 1950s, and Berwickshire was not immune.  In Lauderdale, for instance, which was accessible from the urban area of Midlothian to the north, the illegal siting of buses, caravans, huts etc. caused increasing concern to the council’s elected members.  A police report of September 1950 itemises twelve buses, trailers, railway carriages, caravans and huts in the Oxton area, such as:

  • Railway carriage without wheels, three rooms, fenced in and concrete paving laid round; Occupier: James Bryson, Dalkeith;
  • Tramcar; Occupier: Reynolds Arnott, Edinburgh;
  • Double-deck bus on wheels; Occupier: J. Allan, Tranent.

In October 1950, the council decided to split the Planning and Property & Works Department into two and T. D. Anderson was appointed County Planning Officer.  Progress continued on the preparation of the development plan with F.W.B. Charles producing town maps for the burghs and the other main settlements.  Each of these was the subject of consultation with the respective burgh councils.

In 1952, with the election of Major Askew as Chairman of the County Council, Brigadier Swinton took over chairmanship of the Planning and Property and Works Committee.  The continued illegal siting of railway carriages, caravans and shacks in various parts of the county prompted the county council to establish a Camping and Caravans Sub-Committee with the aim of taking enforcement action to remove the illegal encampments and encourage bone-fide mobile caravan sites in suitable locations.

By September 1953, a Draft Report of Survey, together with Town Maps for Duns, Eyemouth, Chirnside, Coldstream and Lauder, had been completed by F.W.B. Charles.  His involvement in the development plan ceased at this stage, co-incidentally he had moved from Edinburgh to the English Midlands, and John B. Hall of J & J Hall, Architects in Galashiels, who had prepared the Selkirkshire County Development Plan was approached to complete the development plan.  After a number of meetings and deliberations over the cost of appointing John B Hall, the architect withdrew his interest in taking over the development plan in September 1954 due to health issues.  Under continuing pressure from the Department of Health for Scotland, approaches were made to East Lothian Council to discuss the possibility of its County Planning Officer, Frank Tindall, who had completed the East Lothian County Development Plan, to undertake the Berwickshire County Development Plan.  Although the County Planning Officer was enthusiastic, the council would not release him.  With little progress over the ensuing two years, the council approached Midlothian County Council to enlist the services of its County Planning Officer, John Baillie.  Midlothian County Council agreed and John Baillie was appointed in January 1957 as planning consultant with responsibility for finalising and submitting the development plan to the Secretary of State.

By the mid-1950s, the number of planning applications received each year had risen to over 200 per annum.  The number of applications for illuminated signs at petrol filling stations, hotels and public houses increased as such businesses sought to cater for the growing number of car-borne travellers.  In the late-1950s, the first rumblings about visitor pressures at Coldingham Sands is evidence in committee minutes.

After three years of deliberation over such matters as the siting of new industry, a by-pass for Coldstream and the upgrading of the A697, the County Development Plan was agreed in draft form, for consultation with the burghs and other parties, in December 1959.  It was agreed to extend the agreement with Midlothian County Council over the services of John Ballie, its County Planning Officer, until December 1960.  In June 1960, the council received its 3000th planning application, an average of 200 per annum since 1945.  The Planning Department moved from the Council Buildings in Newtown Street, Duns to Southfield Lodge on Station Road.

The County Development Plan was finally submitted to the Secretary of State in December 1960.  The Plan was prepared on the assumption that the 1957 population of 23,753 would at least be retained, additional population in the burghs off-setting the decline in population in the landward area.  It was not envisaged that there would be any demand for housing in the landward area and no housing allocations were made outside the burghs of Eyemouth, Duns, Coldstream and Lauder, and Chirnside and Earlston.  It was the policy of the county council to encourage industrial development, although there appeared little prospect of attracting industry to Berwickshire, and sites for industry were identified in the burghs and Chirnside and Earlston.  Harbour improvements at Eyemouth were proposed.  A long list of road proposals for the trunk roads (A1 and A68) and the A697 were identified, with by-passes for all the main towns and villages on these roads, such as Ayton, Reston, Grantshouse and Cockburnspath on the A1, Lauder and Earlston on the A68 and Coldstream on the A698.  In the landward area, the Lammermuir Hills, the coastal strip and the Tweed Valley around Dryburgh, Bemersyde and Scott’s View were identified as Areas of Great Landscape Value.

In the next post we shall see how Berwickshire County Council reacted to the continuing decline in employment opportunities and population in the county and to the rapidly changing circumstances of the 1960s brought about by increasing mobility and changing patterns of leisure and recreation.


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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