Scottish Borders Council updates its Development Plan Scheme annually. Its latest update was considered at the Council meeting on 28 March 2019. The update confirms that preparation of the new Scottish Borders Local Development Plan (LDP2) is well under way. The Main Issues Report (MIR), an important stage in the preparation of a local development plan, was the subject of a 12 week consultation period that closed on 31 January 2019 and in excess of 300 consultation responses were received. The update points out that ‘It is important that the council now moves swiftly in the preparation of the Proposed Plan to ensure the Scottish Borders maintains an up-to-date Development Plan’. It suggests that the Proposed LDP2 would be published towards the end of 2019 with formal consultation during the winter of 2019/2020. Unfortunately, this update was written and presented to the council before the decision of the Scottish Ministers, in May 2019, to reject the Strategic Development Plan (SDP), SESplan2, with which the Proposed LDP2 must comply.
At the time the MIR was finalised, the decision of Scottish Ministers on SESplan2 was still awaited. The MIR was prepared to reflect the key objectives of the proposed SDP and stated that the Proposed LDP2 would take account of the provisions of SESplan2 and any amendments made by Scottish Ministers. The Scottish Ministers decision to reject the proposed SDP has major implications for the progress of the Proposed LDP2 and for the local development plans of the other planning authorities within the SESplan area. Any delay will affect the statutory requirement of planning authorities to produce adopted local development plans within a 5-year cycle [SBC’s existing local development plan was adopted in May 2016]. The planning authorities within the SESplan area are currently discussing this matter and seeking guidance as to how this matter should be resolved.
There is, therefore, some uncertainty as to when the Proposed LDP2 will be presented to the council for approval. In the meantime, a report on the outcome of the public consultation on the MIR during the period November 2018 to January 2019 was presented to the council on 26 June. This lengthy report details the representations received and the wide range of opinions expressed. The highest number of objections related to proposals in Peeblesshire, particularly those for Peebles and Eshiels. Opposition was also made to proposed housing sites at Netherbarns, Galashiels; Harmony Hall in Melrose; on land south of Darnlee in Darnick; and to sites in Ednam, near Kelso and Eddleston in Peeblesshire. Some representations suggested that existing undeveloped sites allocated in the adopted local development plan should be removed from the new local development plan. On the other side of the coin, 43 new sites were suggested by third parties for inclusion in the local development plan. These sites are currently being examined.
Clearly, officers of the council will be continuing to progress the proposed LDP2 but it is a matter of conjecture as to when the Proposed LDP2 will be submitted to the council for approval. Scottish Ministers have certainly put ‘the cat amongst the pigeons!’ What must be of most concern for the council is the fact that the Planning Bill, passed by Scottish Ministers on 21 June and expected to receive Royal Assent and pass into law by mid-July, in an effort to simplify the development planning process, abolishes strategic development plans (SDPs) and replaces them with regional spatial strategies (RSS), a long-term spatial strategy document. Unlike SDPs, the RSS will not form part of the development plan. LDPs must, however, take into account matters such as housing need, the availability of housing land, and the health and education needs of the local population. Furthermore, before preparing a LDP, planning authorities must invite local communities to prepare a Local Place Plan (LPP) setting out their priorities for the development and use of land in the local area. The LPP will not form part of the development plan but must be taken into account by the planning authority in the preparation of the LDP.
So, Scottish Borders Council will have a lot to think about in the forthcoming months and years. How long will it take for the planning authorities in south-east Scotland to produce a regional spatial strategy (RSS)? Can and will SBC progress its LDP2 in advance of the preparation of a RSS for south-east Scotland. Will any LPPs be produced in advance of the finalisation of the Proposed LDP2 or will they have to wait until the next local development plan. Watch this space!