Peeblesshire County Planning in the 1960s and 1970s

Arrangements continued with Midlothian County Council in relation to the processing of planning applications until 1975; the staff of the county planning department, principally Charles Mackenzie, provided planning advice to the County Clerk and the Town Planning Committee.  It was decided not to pursue a review of the county development plan approved in 1955 but to amend the approved development plan as necessary.  The rail link between Penicuik and Galashiels, via Peebles East Station, closed in February 1962 and the route for a link road and by-pass to the east of Peebles town centre, which had been the subject of intense deliberation during the preparation of the county development plan, was resolved.  The county council agreed to purchase the East Station and an amendment to the development plan was prepared showing the new road linking Edinburgh Road with Innerleithen Road along the former railway line, and the remaining part of the station allocated for car parking and a bus terminus.  The former marshalling yard at March Street was designated for industry.  Peebles West Station, closed in 1959, was designated for residential and commercial uses, including a site for a new fire station.

On the tourism front, the future of the various holiday huts sites continued to test the resolve of the council.  There was a continuing demand to replace huts and caravans, extend existing caravan sites and develop new sites.  Milk bars and tearooms/cafes became established at a number of rural locations on the main road routes through the county.  Peter Maxwell-Stuart opened up Traquair House to the public and obtained planning permission for a shop and tearoom in 1963.  The 1960s had truly arrived in Peebles when, in 1966, a hut situated between Tweed Green and the High Street was the unauthorised venue for a ‘Beat Club’ [a venue for popular 1960s music].  A similar proposal in Romanno Bridge was refused planning permission in 1968.  Refusals of planning permission were rare prior to the 1970s, for it was the practice of the council (along with the other councils in the Borders) to defer decisions on applications that were not acceptable in the hope that an acceptable compromise could be reached or that the application would be withdrawn because of the opposition.

A Landscape and Tourism Development Plan, prepared in 1965, reviewed the AGLV designation that covered the whole county in the approved development plan, and proposed more specific areas along the Tweed Valley, the Manor Valley and the Leithen Water Valley.  It also identified various tourism proposals, including car park/picnic sites and camping/caravan sites.  In 1968, the whole of the county was designated ‘Countryside’ under the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 allowing grants of up to75% for countryside projects such as car parking/picnic sites in the Meldon Hills, Leithen Valley, Manor Sware Viewpoint and Cademuir, and for the employment of a part-time Ranger.  Planning permission was granted in 1968 for a roadhouse hotel (the Pantiles) at West Linton, together with a touring caravan site.  On the outskirts of Peebles, planning permission was granted for the Countryside Inn (another roadhouse type facility) at Kirnlaw, near Glentress Forest.  In 1969, the Bakehouse Tearoom in West Linton became established as a popular Sunday destination for coffee & cake.  In response to the growing popularity of caravanning, Rosetta House and its grounds were purchased by the county council in 1969 for development as a caravan and camping site.

With population continuing to decrease and low unemployment, local textile manufacturers imported labour from Midlothian.  An overspill agreement was reached between Peebles Town Council and Glasgow City Council to overcome the labour shortage and attempts were made to attract male-employing industries.  Peebles town council purchased the March Street Marshalling Yard in 1964 and the first factory was erected in 1968 by Litsters, a photographic finishing company, followed by Fidelitone, manufacturers of record styluses, in 1970.  Land at South Park would be acquired for industry by the town council in 1970.  Sand and gravel working in the northern part of the county continued to expand as the economy grew in the 1960s.  At Shiphorns, over 400 acres of land at Darnhall was granted planning permission in 1967 for sand and gravel working over a 30 year period.  In 1969, planning permissions were granted for the extension of the existing workings at Nether Falla, for a new area on Portmore Estate and for a new site at Tarfhaugh, West Linton.

On the housing front, the expansion of Peebles continued south of the Tweed with SSHA and local authority housing at Kingsmeadows Gardens and private housing at Edderston Road and Gallowhill.  Private housing was also proposed on a number of fields at St. Ronan’s Terrace, Innerleithen, whilst the SSHA continued housing development at The Pirn.  In 1968, Peebles Town Council appointed its own planning consultant to advise on the growth potential of the town.  At the same time, the county planning officer produced a draft ‘Urban Structure Plan’ for Peebles (along the lines suggested in the Government’s PAG Report ‘The future of Development Plans’ published in 1965).  This draft Plan set out future areas of growth with major expansion to the north (opposite Rosetta House) for housing and industry and the redevelopment of the Cuddyside area north of the High Street, which proved to be a very contentious issue.

The 1970s saw the rate of private housing in the county increase with development in Peebles, at Edderston Road, Bonnington Road and Gallowhill, at St. Ronan’s Terrace, Well’s Brae and Leithen Road in Innerleithen and at Bogsbank Road and Linton Bank Drive in West Linton.  The increasing pressure for housing at West Linton, including proposals for a major housing development at ‘The Hiddles’, would lead to the establishment, in 1973, of the West Linton Residents Association, which would become an influential pressure group and a strong voice over the coming years against the further expansion of West Linton.  In Peebles, the proposed re-development of Damdale Mill and Damcroft for private housing would prove contentious.  Eventually purchased by the town council, this area would be re-developed for rented housing by the SSHA.  In response to proposals to widen Cuddy Bridge at the west end of the High Street and demolish “Bank House”, Peebles Civic Society was born in 1973 with the intention of creating a local organisation that would protect and enhance the Burgh’s built environment.

As local government re-organisation drew closer, proposals for private housing were made in such diverse locations as Eddleston, Romanno Bridge, Broughton and Blyth Bridge as well as Peebles, Innerleithen and West Linton.  Proposals for three sites on Station Road, West Linton, which were refused planning permission, would have trebled the population of the village.  The number of planning applications jumped from an average of 150 per annum in the 1960s (146 in 1970) to over 230 in 1973.  The population of Peebles increased by 500 persons between 1964 and 1974 as a result of its attraction as a retirement location and with Edinburgh commuters.  Housing would be a major issue for the new Borders Regional Council with pressure for more development at West Linton, Eddleston and south of the River Tweed in Peebles.


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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