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

The first meeting of Selkirkshire 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 Chairman, Major Scott Plummer of Sunderland Hall, and conducted its first business.  The first task for the new committee was to establish a system for dealing with applications submitted under the Interim Development powers conferred by the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943.  Under the 1943 Act, the Department of Health for Scotland expected planning applications to be dealt with within 14 days; there was no such thing as neighbour notification or public consultation of any kind.  In Selkirkshire, the County Clerk dealt with applications timeously and reported to the Planning Committee.

The first planning application, approved at the committee held on 28 April 1944, was for improvements and alterations to Langhaugh House on the Melrose Road, Galashiels [now demolished!].  Only five other planning applications were received in 1944, submitted by Selkirk and Galashiels town councils for the erection of temporary housing.  Twenty-one applications were determined in 1945, and eighty in 1946.  By 1950, the number of applications, all dealt with by the Planning Committee, had risen to 125.

The 1943 Act also required planning authorities to initiate a survey 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).  The Edinburgh Architectural Association had already undertaken a preliminary survey of Galashiels Burgh in 1943 for the Department of Health, which was responsible for town and country planning in Scotland at Government level.  In accordance with the requirements of the 1943 Act, the committee asked the burgh surveyor of Selkirk to undertake a comprehensive survey of Selkirk and John C. Hall, architect of Galashiels, was appointed to undertake the survey of the landward area.  Surveys of Galashiels, Selkirk and the main villages in the county, Ashkirk, Clovenfords, Ettrickbridge End and Yarrowfeus were completed by the end of 1944 and interim planning schemes were prepared in draft.

In Galashiels, the Department of Health had earmarked almost 20 acres of land at Gala Policies (Forest Gardens and Balmoral Avenue) for local authority development.  Local builders, John G & George A Hunter, built private houses at Glenfield and along the north side of Melrose Road at Wester Langlee.  In Selkirk, the town council submitted proposals for new housing at Raeburn Meadow and Philiphaugh (Bannerfield).  Although the County Agricultural Committee objected to the loss of agricultural land at Philiphaugh because of the effect on Philiphaugh Farm (a dairy farm), the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (DAFS) had no objections and consent was granted.

Following the enactment of the Town and County Planning (Scotland Act 1947, there were discussions amongst Roxburgh, Selkirkshire and Berwickshire County Councils regarding the establishment of a joint advisory committee and the appointment of a planning officer to prepare one development plan for the three counties.  However, after some discussion, it was decided that each county council should appoint its own planning officer to prepare a development plan for each authority.  John C. Hall, who acted as County Architect, was appointed County Planning Officer for Selkirkshire County Council in September 1948 and given authority to employ additional staff to carry out the statutory duties required by the new Act.  All planning applications were submitted to the County Clerk, W T Dundas and considered by the Planning Committee, John C Hall and subsequently his son, John B Hall, providing planning advice.  George Ovens, who would later move to Roxburgh County Council and eventually become its Depute County Planning Officer, and Harold Hudson, were set to work on the preparation of the first development plan for Selkirkshire.

By October 1950 a draft development plan had been produced for discussion with Galashiels and Selkirk Town Councils.  Trunk road proposals were a significant issue, particularly in relation to the A7.  The Ministry of Transport had proposed a by-pass for Selkirk prior to the Second World War and, following the publication of the Regional Plan for Central and South-East Scotland in 1946, consulted both Roxburgh County Council and Selkirkshire County Council on a new trunk road linking the A68 and the A7 between Newtown St. Boswells and Galashiels involving a by-pass to Melrose and a new bridge over the River Tweed in the vicinity of Kingsknowes.  Whilst Selkirkshire County Council and Selkirk Town Council welcomed a by-pass for Selkirk, both the County Council and Galashiels Town Council had concerns over the impact on Galashiels of the proposed new link between the A68 and the A7.  Both the County Council and Galashiels Town Council favoured a by-pass to the west of the burgh involving a new road from the vicinity of the Tweed Bridge, on the A7 south of Galashiels, via Hollybush and Mossilee to cross the Gala Water and railway line at Wood Street and connect with the A7 at Torwoodlee.  The Ministry of Transport did not favour this expensive solution and also pointed out that such a route would not serve the traffic arriving at Kingsknowes from the A68 along the new link road.  Much to the consternation of the County Council and the Town Council, the Ministry of Transport proposed a new road through the centre of Galashiels from Abbotsford Road through Bank Street Gardens and the rear of High Street (involving the demolition of the old town hall) and Island Street, to connect with Wood Street and thence across the Gala Water to Torwoodlee.  Meetings between the County Council, the Ministry of Transport and the Department of Health ensued throughout 1950 and 1951.

The County Development Plan for Selkirkshire, one of the first to be produced in Scotland, was submitted to the Secretary of State in March 1953.  It was based on retaining a stable population in the landward area with small increases in Galashiels and Selkirk; with a target 1973 county population of 22,169 compared with a 1951 population of 21,724.  Local authority housing in Galashiels was concentrated in the Balmoral area and at Wester Langlee (to include a new school).  Sites for private housing were allocated at Ladhope and off Abbotsford Road at Binniemyre, Sunningdale and Brunswickhill.  In Selkirk, local authority housing was concentrated at Bannerfield.  In Galashiels, the plan included a proposed new bus station in the station yard to replace the use of the Market Place.  As regards the route of the A7, the county council wished to include a by-pass to the west of Galashiels, which would aid the development of the Hollybush area in the longer term, but the Ministry of Transport prevailed and the development plan included a new road through the centre of Galashiels.  The Secretary of State approved the development plan in April 1955, subject to the area at Sunningdale only being identified for longer term development after construction of the new link road.

On submission of the development plan to the Secretary of State, Harold Hudson sought pastures new and left the employ of John C Hall.  George Ovens also left and moved to Roxburgh County Council, to be replaced by Duncan Laing, who took up the position of Junior Planning Assistant.  However, it seems that during the 1950s it was impossible to attract suitably qualified planners to the Scottish Borders (Selkirk County Council was not alone, for Roxburgh County Council experienced the same difficulties) and there were no suitable candidates to fill the post vacated by Harold Hudson.  Therefore, throughout the mid-1950s there was only one dedicated member of staff, Duncan Laing, to support the County Planning Officer in providing advice on planning applications.  Work had also fallen behind on the Quinquennial Review of the Development Plan, a requirement of the 1948 Planning Act, so when Duncan Laing left in September 1957 and his position could not be filled, John C Hall was given authority to employ other staff within his practice on planning work.  Consequently, two people who would become well-known Border characters would emerge onto the planning scene; Frank Entwistle, an architectural technician within John C Hall’s practice, who took over responsibility for the review of the development plan, and John Gray, who had been taken on as an apprentice draughtsman in June 1956.  Frank Entwistle’s involvement in planning in Selkirkshire would continue until the re-organisation of local government in 1975, after which he would establish his own architectural practice.  John Gray would become an established figure in planning in the Borders and would subsequently pursue a career with the Borders Regional Council after 1975, eventually becoming a prime mover in the economic development of the region.

Throughout the late 1950s, work continued on the Quinquennial Review of the Development Plan against the background of a continually falling rural population, largely due to the mechanisation of agriculture.  In the period 1951 to 1961, the population of the county declined by some 700 persons.  Much emphasis was placed on the modernisation and expansion of existing industries and the encouragement of new industries to Galashiels and Selkirk.  Overspill agreements were negotiated with Glasgow Corporation to attract additional workers to meet the needs, particularly for female workers, of the traditional tweed and knitwear industries.  Large areas in Galashiels and Selkirk were identified for local authority housing.  Proposals were set out for the extension northwards of the Riverside Industrial Area in Selkirk along Dunsdale Road with a new junction on the A7 north of the Toll.  Outline plans were drawn up for the redevelopment of Selkirk town centre (the area bounded by Market Place, Kirk Wynd, Back Row and Tower Street), involving the demolition of some 150 unfit houses.  The county council continued to push for a by-pass to Galashiels but the Scottish Home and Health Department would not agree to the inclusion of a by-pass in the Quinquennial Review.

The next post will examine the Quinquennial Review, submitted to the Secretary of State in May 1964 and approved in January 1968, in some detail and will also look at the impact on planning in Selkirkshire of the Government’s White Paper on the Scottish Economy 1965-1970 and the subsequent Central Borders Study: A Plan for Expansion, published in 1968.


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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