Scottish Borders Council approved the Main Issues Report (MIR) for the review of the Local Development Plan on 30 August 2018. The new Local Development Plan (LDP2) will replace the adopted Local Development Plan 2016. It will guide future development for the period 2021 to 2026. The MIR is not a draft version of the LDP2 but a consultation document which sets out the key issues for consideration. It draws together the findings of the Call for Sites from potential developers, the results of a number of public events and workshops held in 2017, and consultations with statutory bodies and other council departments. It takes account of national planning requirements and the strategy and policies in the latest Strategic Development Plan (SESplan2), which has recently been the subject of Examination by Reporters from the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA). Their recommendations have been submitted to Scottish Ministers and a decision on their recommendations is expected by the end of 2018.
The Main Issues Report (MIR) focusses on the issues to be addressed in the new local development plan and sets out the council’s proposed and alternative approaches to planning and development under the following headings:
- Vision, aims and spatial strategy;
- Growing the economy;
- Planning for housing;
- Supporting town centres
- Delivering sustainability and climate change agenda;
- Settlement maps and
- Planning policy issues.
According to the MIR, the population of the Scottish Borders will increase from an estimated 115,020 in 2017 to 116,777 by 2026. There will be a marked increase in the proportion of the population over 65 years old, with a 31% increase in the number of people aged 75 and older, which will have an increasing impact on health, housing and social care provision. Based on the population projections, additional housing will be required to address the needs of the older population and the growth in smaller households (those of one or two persons).
The main employment sectors in the Scottish Borders are health and social work, retail, construction, education, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and public administration. The Scottish Borders continues to rely on traditional rural activities focussed on agriculture, forestry and fishing. In terms of industrial activity, there is an adequate supply of employment land in most parts of the Scottish Borders but there is a continued low take-up through development. Nevertheless, there is a recognised need to allocate further employment land within the Peebles area and in Galashiels. The provision of high amenity business land in the Central Borders is seen as essential to capitalise on the investment in the Borders Railway. The council continues to support the promotion of the line extending to Carlisle as well as an improved service for Berwickshire with a rail halt at Reston. In addition to transport, digital connectivity remains vital to the future development of the Borders and it is critical that the region benefits from maximising the provision of Full Fibre Connectivity to businesses and the wider community.
The role of town centres is changing and vacancy rates continue to increase. In the Scottish Borders, retail vacancy rates and performance are patchy. Measures need to be considered to keep town centres in the Scottish Borders viable and vibrant.
Infrastructure provision will be required to enable future development. New housing allocations can also put a strain on education provision. However, given the limited number of additional houses required within the LDP2 period, it is not envisaged that this should be an insurmountable problem, except perhaps in the Peebles catchment.
Delivering sustainable development and ensuring a high quality of design for all developments are key requirements of Scottish Planning Policy and the LDP2 must reflect these requirements. LDP2 must also promote a low carbon future and help the Scottish Government achieve climate change targets. It must promote economic stability and growth whilst protecting the built and natural intrinsic values of the Scottish Borders.
The Strategic Development Plan (SESPlan) requires strategic growth in the Scottish Borders to be directed to three growth areas: the Central Borders, the Western Borders (centred on Peebles) and Berwickshire. The Central Borders growth area focusses on Galashiels, Melrose, Earlston, Kelso, Jedburgh, Hawick and Selkirk. It is the primary area for growth within the Scottish Borders; it is at the centre of the roads network and served by the Borders railway. In the Western Borders, Peebles is attractive to prospective house builders but potential flood risk issues and the need for a second bridge over the River Tweed prior to any further land being released for housing on the south side of the river, limit options for development. In Berwickshire, growth is focussed on Duns and Eyemouth.
In relation to growing the economy, the Blueprint for the Border Railway seeks to maximise employment opportunities along the railway corridor. A masterplan has been prepared for Tweedbank, including the Lowood Estate, which offers a range of development opportunities. A masterplan has also been prepared for Galashiels town centre, which outlines a number of potential redevelopment opportunities. The Hawick Action Plan identifies a range of opportunities to develop and improve Hawick as a place for working, living and visiting. One of the main challenges is to find new employment land for business and industry in the vicinity of Peebles because of topographical constraints, flood risk issues, traffic congestion issues and the need for a new bridge to allow development south of the Tweed. An independent study has identified site options which are set out in the MIR.
Public engagement is a key part of the development plan process. The MIR and the accompanying Environmental Report will be formally advertised in the local press and will be made available for a consultation period of 12 weeks. It will be placed on the council’s website and made available for inspection at all public libraries and council Contact Centres. There will be wide consultation with all key agencies, neighbouring authorities and community councils, local organisations and businesses. It is proposed to hold a series of ‘public surgeries’, which will include an exhibition, across the Scottish Borders.
So keep an eye out for the announcements (and follow this website). Remember, if you don’t make your views known, they can’t be considered.
It will be the autumn of 2019 before the proposed new local development plan (LDP2) is completed. It will then be the subject of consultation before submission to Scottish Ministers. Any unresolved representations will be the subject of Examination by a Scottish Government Reporter from the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA), probably during the summer of 2020. The conclusions and recommendations of the Reporter must be taken into account before the local development plan is adopted by Scottish Borders Council. It is anticipated that the new Local Development Plan (LDP2) will be adopted by the summer of 2021. Once adopted, LDP2 will replace the current Local Development Plan, adopted on 12 May 2016.