The development plan currently consists of the Scottish Borders Local Development Plan (LDP), adopted in May 2016 and the Strategic Development Plan produced by SESplan, a partnership of six local authorities in the south east of Scotland; Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian, Fife, Scottish Borders and West Lothian, which was approved by Scottish Ministers in June 2013. SESplan’s second Proposed Strategic Development Plan was submitted to Scottish Ministers in June 2017.
The Proposed Strategic Development Plan sets out an ambitious vision to guide the growth of the South East Scotland region over the next twenty years. For the next 12 years (2018-2030), SESplan proposes that most growth will be largely met by land already identified in existing and proposed local development plans. In the Scottish Borders, existing towns provide the focus for retail, commercial and strategic employment opportunities. The potential future expansion of the Borders Rail line to Hawick and beyond could provide further opportunities for growth and regeneration in the Central Borders and Hawick. On the East Coast Main Line, a new station at Reston would provide settlements in Berwickshire with easier access to employment and education opportunities in Edinburgh and stimulate tourism in the area. Dualling of the A1 and improvements of the A68 and A7 would improve journey times to and from England. SESPlan proposes a Green Network Priority Area connecting settlements in the Central Borders with Innerleithen and Peebles utilising former railway lines, offering considerable potential for walking and cycling between town centres and tourism attractions such as Abbotsford, Dryburgh Abbey, Traquair House and Glentress Mountain Biking Centre.
In relation to housing supply, the Proposed Strategic Development Plan indicates that there is sufficient housing land supply to meet housing land requirement for the 2018-2030 period in the Scottish Borders based on the land supply set out in the Local Development Plan. However, a step change in the level of house building is needed if housing supply targets are to be achieved and this may warrant the permitting of proposals for additional housing on sites not identified in the local development plan, subject to it being consistent with the spatial strategy of the development plan and a number of other criteria. Additional housing land allocations are likely to be required to meet the housing land requirement for the period 2030-2038. These will need to be made in new Local Development Plans.
The Examination of the Proposed Strategic Development Plan, which commenced in August 2017, has been completed by Reporters appointed by Scottish Ministers and their report was submitted to Scottish Ministers on 20 July 2018. The Reporters considered twenty-five unresolved issues and have recommended a number of modifications to the Plan.
In relation to the spatial strategy, the Reporters have recommended that the location of any additional sites to those identified in local development plans, that require to be identified for development in the period 2018-2030, should be in and around Edinburgh and along transport corridors. In relation to Key Areas of Change in the Scottish Borders, the Reporters have recommended that the Strategic Development Plan should give more emphasis to the fact that major flood schemes in Selkirk, Hawick and Galashiels will provide opportunities for growth and regeneration in the Central Borders.
In relation to housing targets, the Reporters have increased the housing supply target for the Scottish Borders for the period 2018-2030 from 4,176 homes to 5,202 homes and the housing land requirement from 4,594 to 5,760 homes. In relation to the five year effective housing land supply, where a shortfall is identified, sites for greenfield housing development not allocated in local development plans may be granted planning permission subject the development being consistent with the spatial strategy of the development plan and a number of other criteria.
It is now for Scottish Ministers to consider the report and decide whether or not to approve the plan, with or without modifications.
It should be born in mind, however, that future changes in planning legislation may make Strategic Development Plans redundant. The Planning (Scotland) Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 4 December 2017 sets out the Scottish Government’s proposals for changes to the overall framework under which planning operates. The Scottish Government proposes that Strategic Development Plans should be removed from the system to be replaced by more proactive regional working partnerships. So, the Proposed Strategic Development Plan is likely to be the last. For more information about the Government’s proposals for the planning system, see the ‘Planning (Scotland) Bill 2017’ post.