County Planning in the 1940s and 1950s: Peeblesshire County Council

Peeblesshire County Council pre-empted the enactment of the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943 by appointing its first Town Planning Committee in December 1940.  However, this committee undertook little business until September 1942 when consideration was given to the carrying out of a survey of the area in connection with the post-war planning of the county.  Frank Mears, who would produce the Regional Survey and Plan for Central and South-East Scotland, published in 1946, and who was undertaking a survey of Peebles for the town council in connection with its post-war housing scheme, was approached and agreed to undertake a survey of the county.  Work commenced in January 1943; the survey and preliminary town plans were to be completed within one year at a cost of £850.

By early 1944, although factual surveys of Peebles, Innerleithen, Walkerburn and other villages had been carried out, considerable dis-satisfaction was being expressed by the Town Planning Committee at the lack of any definite proposals for the county.  A great deal of time had been taken up up-dating the OS base maps and a lack of transport was inhibiting survey work.  In April 1944, Mr. Mottram, the architect carrying out the survey work on behalf of Frank Mears, was provided with a 7hp Austin car and the Regional Petroleum Officer was approached to sanction a supply of petrol!  It would be another year before the survey of the county was completed and preliminary proposals set out for post-war housing in Peebles.

In February 1944, following the coming into effect of the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943, Mr. A Anderson, County Surveyor, was appointed Planning Officer to deal with the expected rush of applications for interim development certificates.  There was a rash of applications for the erection of pre-fabricated houses in Peebles and Innerleithen by the respective town councils.  A preliminary report submitted by Frank Mears at the end of 1944 identified housing and industrial sites in Peebles and Innerleithen.  Kingsmeadows was identified as the area for a major expansion of housing in Peebles.  A report on housing in the landward area to sustain farming after the end of the war identified the requirement for 446 houses to meet the needs of agricultural workers and an ageing population.  Swedish timber houses were erected in a number of locations; Broughton, Skirling, Romanno Bridge, Lamancha and Eddleston.

Following the publication of the Central and South-East Scotland Study, by Frank Mears, in May 1946, consideration was given to the establishment of a Joint Planning Advisory Committee for the Borders.  It was generally felt by Peeblesshire members that Peeblesshire was geographically and economically more closely related to Edinburgh and the Lothians than the Central Borders.  In fact, Frank Mears suggested that there was an opportunity for the establishment of a joint planning department with Midlothian County Council, where John S Baillie had been appointed county planning officer, but the council did not consider this necessary at this time.

Probably due to his commitments with the Central and South-East Scotland Study, it was May 1947 before Frank Mears finally produced his report and plan for Peeblesshire County, which was publicised in the local press and the subject of consultation with Peebles and Innerleithen town councils.  Over the next 6 months, wide-ranging comments were received from Peebles and Innerleithen town councils and from Broughton and West Linton parishes.

Following elections in May 1948, and the enactment of the new Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947, which introduced wide-ranging planning powers to control development, including the requirement to prepare development plans, the relevance of the Mears’ plan was questioned.  Considerable doubts were expressed about a number of proposals in Peebles and Innerleithen with questions over the proposed route of a by-pass for Peebles and the siting of new housing and industrial sites; a by-pass for West Linton and the need for a rigid control of holiday huts, shacks and caravans in the countryside.  As planning applications started to be received, thoughts turned to staffing and the council reluctantly decided in December 1948 to enter into an arrangement with Midlothian Council whereby the staff of that council’s planning department would carry out planning work for Peeblesshire County Council under the direction of John Baillie, the County Planning Officer.  Initially, all decisions on planning applications were considered by the Town Planning Committee with Baillie Cleland presiding.  However, by February 1949, decisions on planning applications were delegated to the County Clerk where the County Surveyor (A. Anderson) and the County Planning Officer (J.S. Baillie) had no objections.  The planning department of Midlothian County Council took over the responsibility of producing the development plan survey and report.

Major areas of housing development commenced in the early 1950s at Kingsmeadows in Peebles and at the Pirn in Innerleithen, including the provision of new schools.  The distribution of holiday huts, shacks, bus bodies and caravans throughout northern Peeblesshire was the subject of a major report resulting in the establishment of a joint Planning and Landward Health and Housing sub-committee to consider future policy.  Applications for the resumption of sand and gravel working at various locations in the county, such as Shiphorns Farm and Nether Fall near Eddleston, also provided a challenge for the Town Planning Committee.

Work on the development plan progressed through 1949, 1950 and 1951, and in March 1952 a draft development plan, which featured major road proposals for Peebles, was exhibited in the town.  The development plan proposed a by-pass in a 60ft wide corridor on the town side of the East Station from Northgate to Innerleithen Road much to the consternation of the Railway Executive.  Peebles West Station, on the south side of the Tweed, had closed to passengers in June 1950 although goods trains continued to run to Broughton and Symington until June 1954.  The West Station Goods Depot, connected by the seven arch skew bridge over the Tweed to Peebles East Station, continued in use until August 1959 and Peebles East Station continued in use until February 1962.  The town council preferred a route on the Venlaw Bank side of the railway.  Eventually, a compromise solution comprising a one-way road system on the town side of the East Station was agreed.  It was June 1953 before the development plan report was finalised and, following consultations with Midlothian County Council on matters of joint interest, it was submitted to the Secretary of State on 14 October 1953.

The Peeblesshire County Development Plan was approved on 23 December 1955.  It was based on a 1951 county population of little more than 15,000 persons and anticipated little change in population over the subsequent 20 year period.  Land for housing to accommodate an additional 500 persons in Peebles and 500 persons in Innerleithen and Walkerburn, together, was proposed.  In Peebles, land was allocated for housing on Edderston Road and at Kingsmeadows.  Land for light industrial development was identified at South Park, near the Cattle Market, and on Rosetta Road, north of the built-up area.  In Innerleithen, the Pirn site was identified for local authority housing and included a site for a new primary school.  Land south of the railway line was allocated for light industry.

Major road proposals included by-passes for Carlops, West Linton and Dolphinton on the A702 and for Romanno Bridge on the A701.  On the A72, a major new road was proposed by-passing Innerleithen and Walkerburn to the south.  In Peebles, itself, a number of significant road improvements had been debated and discounted but the plan retained the proposed widening of the west end of the High Street/Cuddy Bridge/Old Town and part of Northgate, involving the demolition of a number of frontage properties.

In the landward area, the main policy issues related to mineral working and the hut encampments.  A number of sites for sand and gravel working, roadstone quarrying, peat working and open cast coal-mining in the northern part of the county were identified.  Hut encampments at Carlops, West Linton, Eddleston and Peebles were identified for improvement and a policy of allowing individual huts in the countryside subject to there being no nuisance or detriment to the amenity was established. During the 1950s, planning permission for single holiday huts and caravans in the countryside were granted planning permission for a limited period of 5 years but owner/occupiers were encouraged to re-site them on recognised sites at Carlops, Eddleston and Peebles.  Enforcement action was taken against the numerous bus bodies (single and double-deckers) used as holiday accommodation.

As car ownership and car touring increased during the 1950s, there was a plethora of applications for petrol filling stations both in the urban areas of Peebles and Innerleithen and in the countryside on the main road routes.  Most applications were refused but planning permissions were granted for the ubiquitous ‘Milk Bar’ on a number of main routes through the county.  Advertisement applications on garages, hotels and public houses, including illuminated garage signs proliferated.  Advanced signs for hotels in the countryside proved most contentious.  The whole county outwith the two burghs was designated an Area of Special Advertisement Control.

As the 1960s dawned, in the landward area, mineral working, hut encampments and tourist-related developments would be the main issues facing the council.  In Peebles, its increasing attraction as a retirement and commuter town would bring pressures for housing development south of the river, leading to conflict with those who wished to conserve the town’s historic character.


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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