Berwickshire County Planning in the 1960s and 1970s

The appointment of John Baillie, the County Planning Officer for Midlothian County, as planning consultant for the preparation of the county development plan ceased on 31 December 1960 with the submission of the development plan to the Secretary of State.  Somewhat reluctantly, the council agreed that T. D. Anderson, the County Planning Officer, would be unable to continue to deal with day-to-day development control matters and tackle any consequences from the development plan submission without additional staff.  The council agreed to the appointment of one planning assistant to deal with the processing of planning applications, approximately 200 per annum.  However, there was little response to successive advertisements for the post and   T. D. Anderson continued, alone, to deal with planning applications and related matters.

Objections to the development plan were received in relation to proposals for Eyemouth.  As a result, Planning Consultant, A.T. McIndoe was appointed in July 1963 to prepare an amendment to the Eyemouth Town Map to include harbour improvements and additional land for industry at Coldingham Road.  In response to the submission of the development plan, the Scottish Development Department requested that Areas of Great Landscape Value and Tourist Development Proposals, required by Circular 2/1961, should be included in the development plan.  T. D. Thomson of Coldingham, a tourism consultant, was appointed to produce a landscape and tourist development plan.  The county development plan would eventually be approved by the Secretary of State in February 1965 subject to the deletion of the AGLV designation that covered the whole county and the removal of a housing allocation at Lauder of land between the town and the proposed by-pass through the grounds of Thirlestane Castle.  The county council was asked to consider a reduced area for AGLVs covering specific areas such as the Lammermuirs, the coast, Lauderdale and the Tweed Valley around Scots View and Bemersyde.

Development control during the early 1960s continued to be undertaken by T. D. Anderson, the County Planning Officer, on his own.  As the number of applications increased, the committee agreed to delegate decisions on straight-forward applications to the County Planning Officer.  Eventually, in February 1965, a planning assistant was appointed to assist with the growing number of planning applications, which now exceeded 250 per annum.  During this time, there was increasing pressure for camping and caravan sites along the Berwickshire Coast, with developments at Eyemouth, Coldingham and Pease Bay.  Increasing visitor pressure at Coldingham Sands, and the resultant erosion of the sand dunes resulting from the proliferation of beach huts, prompted an examination of the measures that could be taken to protect the beach and dunes similar to those being undertaken by East Lothian County Council at Gullane.  Access to Cove Harbour also became an issue when the access road suffered damage from land-slips.  The Areas of Great Landscape and Tourist Development Plan, which designated several AGLVs, set out the policy on camping and caravan sites, and identified locations for new car park/picnic sites in the countryside and along the main routes through the county (the A1, A68 and A697), was approved in March 1966.

After 36 years’ service with Berwickshire County Council, twenty years as County Planning Officer, T. D. Anderson retired in July 1966 and Basil Knowles, a qualified planner and Fellow of the Royal Town Planning Institute, was appointed as his replacement and designated County Planning and Development Officer.  Basil Knowles, with a planning career stretching as far back as 1938, arrived from Shropshire (Salop) County Council, where he had been Assistant County Planning Officer.  At Berwickshire County Council, he was responsible for giving planning its rightful place in a county where the positive power of planning had never been fully understood.  With skill and imagination, he pioneered policies which showed how a rural county could, by its own efforts, check the downward spiral of depopulation and restore its confidence.

Basil Knowles quickly identified the issues that needed to be tackled at a time when economic and social change was driving changes in the planning system.  In a report to the Planning and Development Committee, which had now been separated from the Property and Works Committee, in September 1966, he set out his ideas for the future of the county; recommending:

  • a programme of advance factories in Eyemouth and Duns to kick-start additional employment; the first nursery factories would be constructed in Eyemouth and Duns in 1967, the Scottish Industrial Estates Corporation (SIEC) constructed the first advanced factory at Coldingham Road, Eyemouth in 1968.
  • a local authority housing programme to attract industry to the county;
  • the possibility of large-scale afforestation in the Lammermuir Hills to create employment;
  • road signage to promote scenic routes through the county, with car park/picnic sites at appropriate locations;
  • a coastal path along the Berwickshire coast from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Cockburnspath; and
  • a programme of amenity tree planting in towns and villages throughout the county.

On the appointment of Basil Knowles, the planning assistant, who had been appointed in February 1965 to assist T. D. Anderson with the growing number of planning applications, resigned his position and it would be June 1967 before a replacement, Robert Johnston, was found.  Nevertheless, policy reports were produced during 1966/1967 on the siting and design of new housing, the control of the development of caravan sites and the conservation of the Coldingham Bay/St. Abb’s area.  The Secretary of State approved the Landscape and Tourist Development Plan, as an amendment to the Development Plan, in January 1968.  The designation of the whole of the county as “Countryside” in terms of the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 opened the door for 75% grants for countryside projects such as Coldingham Bay and the provision of car park/picnic sites throughout the county.  The whole of the county, except the burghs of Coldstream, Duns and Eyemouth and the settlements of Chirnside and Earlston, was designated an “Area of Special Control” for the purpose of controlling the proliferation of advertisements in the countryside, such as advanced signs on the main arterial roads.  In March 1969, a number of towns and villages were designated as conservation areas, a by-pass for Ayton on the A1 was agreed with the Scottish Office and a plan for the redevelopment of Duns town centre was produced [a plan for Eyemouth town centre had been produced by A. T. McIndoe].

In June 1969, David Douglas was appointed Depute Director of Planning and Development to assist Basil Knowles on planning policy and economic development matters. Alistair Lorimer replaced Robert Johnston as planning assistant in October 1969 and the staff of the burgeoning department was expanded further by the appointment of a draughtsman.  The work of the Planning and Development Department continued to expand with involvement in the Eyemouth and Duns town centre redevelopments, a number of proposals for caravan sites and the expansion of existing sites in Eyemouth, Coldingham and Pease Bay, and car park/picnic site proposals at Renton Barns on the A1 and at Hexpath and Cambridge Crossroads on the A697.  During the early 1970s, the pressure on the Berwickshire coastline continued to increase, with a constant demand for additional caravan sites.  Cove Harbour would be purchased in 1971 and plans approved to repair the access road and pier, and convert the stores into toilets and a shelter.  In February 1972, the council agreed to purchase Coldingham Sands in order to control the increasing visitor pressure on the bay.

From 1970, attention was concentrated on the preparation of a rural strategy for Berwickshire, identifying locations for new industry and housing.  The ‘Draft Rural Policy for Berwickshire’ published in March 1972, aimed at stemming the decline in population and “achieving a quality of life for the population which will afford reasonable economic, physical, social, cultural and recreational opportunities in the county”, the objective being to restore confidence in the county and prove that well planned development can provide a rural society with the same opportunities as that of an urban society and retain the young and energetic population.  To utilise to the best advantage the limited economic resources available and exploit the potential of the county, it identified a number of settlement groups on which a range of facilities could be supported.  Each settlement group was related to a “growth point” where the main housing and employment opportunities would be concentrated.  The report proposed that detailed plans be prepared for each settlement group to identify opportunities for development.

Basil Knowles unexpectedly died in February 1973 and David Douglas was promoted to the post of County Planning and Development Officer.  He would continue the work of Basil Knowles in promoting the economic development of Berwickshire County.  The post of Depute Director was filled by Douglas Hope, who arrived from the Scottish Development Department where he had been engaged in producing guidance and advice on the new development plan system introduced by the Town and County Planning (Scotland) Act 1972.  An additional planning assistant, Alistair McLean, would be appointed to assist with the processing of planning applications, which now exceeded 350 per annum.

In the succeeding two years, a number of reports were prepared that would subsequently contribute to the policy making of the new Borders Regional Council.  A report on housing proposed private housing sites for some 300 private houses in a variety of settlements across the county.  A report on Housing and Industry proposed an extensive local authority housing programme in the burghs of Eyemouth, Duns and Coldstream to house incoming workers and land for industry.  Some 20 acres of land was purchased for industry at Acredale, Eyemouth and the former Station Yard in Duns was acquired for industrial development.  Advanced and nursery factories were constructed at Eyemouth, Duns and Coldstream and ELBA Growers, an agricultural co-operative constructed a major cold store at Eyemouth.  A study of Eyemouth Harbour proposed alterations to the harbour entrance and major development at Gunsgreen.  A report on Agriculture in Berwickshire examined how the pattern of agriculture might change in the future and how the local authority could assist this major employer in the county (20% of the employed population compared with 3% in Scotland as a whole).  Settlement plans were drawn up for Lauder, Chirnside and Greenlaw, to complement those produced for Eyemouth, Duns and Coldstream.  A detailed management plan was produced for Coldingham Bay.  From April 1974, attention was also concentrated on the route of the transmission lines across East Lothian and Berwickshire Counties from the proposed Torness Power Station.  A joint working group of officials would be established and this matter would cause friction between the two counties.  Consent for the power station was granted by the Secretary of State in March 1975 and formal consultation on the proposed 400Kv transmission lines commenced; an issue that would be taken up by the Borders Regional Council and Lothian Regional Council after May 1975.

As local government re-organisation drew closer, a report on population change in 1973-74 showed that the population of Berwickshire had increased for the first time in over 100 years (by 313 persons); a major achievement which the council considered was a result of its efforts to diversify the economy of the county through the development of industrial sites in Eyemouth, Duns and Coldstream and the attraction of industry and incoming workers.  These policies would be taken up by the new Borders Regional Council with the appointment of David Douglas as its Director of Planning and Development, the appointment of the Convener of Berwickshire County Council, Major J.M. Askew, as the Convener of the Regional Council and the appointment of the Chairman of the county’s Planning and Development Committee, Baillie Victor Parle, as the Chairman of the Regional Council’s Planning and Development Committee.

 

 

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.