Development Management: February 2020 Update

During February 2020, Scottish Borders Council received some 110 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees.  The vast majority related to the erection of single dwellinghouses and alterations and extensions to dwellinghouses.  An application for the erection of 16 dwellinghouses on a site at Stagehall, Stow is causing some concern (SBC Ref: 20/00169/FUL).  The site is allocated for 12 dwellinghouses in the adopted local development plan and some residents of the adjoining Wedale View development, through which access would be taken, have voiced concerns about the adequacy of the access and traffic calming measures required.

One application that stands out is the application by Network Rail for a screening opinion under the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 as to whether an Environmental Impact Assessment is required for the proposed development of rail station platforms, waiting shelters, car parking and footbridge etc. on the East Coast Mainline at Reston in Berwickshire (SBC Ref: 20/00215/SCR).  This proposal forms part of the overall proposals for the economic regeneration of south east Scotland by the South East of Scotland Transport Partnership and will no doubt be much welcomed by residents of Berwickshire, who may feel that the Waverley Line to Tweedbank is of little value to them.  A train station at Reston is seen by Scottish Borders Council as an important catalyst for the growth of Berwickshire.

In Peeblesshire, an application has been submitted requesting a Scoping Opinion from the planning authority under the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 on a proposal to extract 1.5m tonnes of sand and gravel over a fifteen year period from a site at Slipperfield, West Linton (SBC Ref: 20/00176/SCO).  The application indicates the proposed scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment and the key issues to be addressed; the potential effects on the landscape and people in terms of visual impact, noise and dust, hydrology, flora and fauna, transportation and cultural heritage.  Aa a major proposal, it is intended that a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) will be submitted in due course.  Let us hope that this PAN, as well as meeting the minimum requirements for pre-application consultation, also meets the Government’s aim of meaningful engagement with the local community.

In the central borders, in the rugby town of Melrose, a contentious proposal by St. Mary’s School, comprises the replacement of the grass sports field at Annay Road with a synthetic sports surface covered by an air dome structure with changing facilities (SBC Ref: 20/00165/FUL).  Check out the council’s Public Access Portal if you want to find out more about the above applications or any other application submitted in the past month.

During February, 100 applications were determined by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers.  Again, the vast majority related to the erection of single dwellinghouses or to alterations and extensions to dwellinghouses.  The erection of 10 affordable dwellinghouses by Eildon Housing Association in Westruther, Berwickshire was approved notwithstanding some concerns expressed locally about the inadequacy of the road serving the site (SBC Ref: 19/01491/FUL).  The site was considered for housing in the review of the local development plan and was included in the Main Issues Report (MIR).  The site is currently being considered for inclusion within the proposed local development plan (LDP2).  In Ayton, planning permission in principle was granted for the erection of 9 dwellinghouses on the site of the former garage showroom, filling station and adjoining land on the High Street (SBC Ref: 18/01501/PPP).

Four applications were refused planning permission by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers in February: (i) an application for the conversion of part of the former Buccleuch Hotel in Trinity Street, Hawick into a workshop and store for a joinery business (SBC Ref: 19/01784/FUL); (ii) an application for the change of use of the ground floor of the former Tower Hotel in Oxton, near Lauder, into offices in connection with a plumbing business (SBC Ref: 19/01727/FUL); (iii) an application for the erection of a dwellinghouse at Broomhills, Hawick (SBC Ref: 19/01691/PPP); and (iv) an application for alterations and extension to dwellinghouse at 22 Queen’s Croft, Kelso (SBC Ref: 19/01756/FUL).

At its meeting on 3 February the Planning and Building Standards Committee refused planning permission for two major proposals: (i) residential development on land east of Kittlegairy Avenue, Peebles (SBC Ref: 17/00606/PPP); and (ii) the erection of 8 wind turbines on land north of Carcant Lodge (Wull Muir), Heriot (SBC Ref: 19/00191/FUL).  The proposed residential development east of Kittlegairy Avenue comprised approximately 200 houses on 20ha of land on the south side of the B7062.  Objections to the development had been received from a number of consultees, including Peebles & District Community Council and Peebles Civic Society, and from a number of individual objectors.  A major issue is traffic generation and the requirement for a second bridge over the Tweed to serve further development in Peebles south of the river.  Planning permission was refused on the grounds that the site lies outwith the settlement boundary of Peebles; there is currently a five year effective housing supply in the Scottish Borders and there is insufficient justification for bringing this site forward for development; and the existing road system is incapable of accommodating the traffic likely to be generated by the proposed development and without a second river crossing, the additional traffic would cause congestion and compromise road safety in the town centre.

The proposed wind turbines at Wull Muir were refused on the grounds that they would have an unacceptable significant impact on the landscape and on defence and aviation safety.  The community was split on the proposal with an almost equal number of representations for and against.  The local community council, Heriot/Stow and Fountainhall Community Council, recommended refusal of the application.  Since the decision was made, the Ministry of Defence has withdrawn its objection subject to the turbines being fitted with aviation warning lights.  It will be interesting to see if an appeal against the refusal of planning permission is submitted to Scottish Ministers (and what the decision might be, particularly in view of the recent decision on the Gilston Hill appeal – see below!).

The Local Review Body on 17 February considered three appeals against the Chief Planning Officer’s decision to refuse planning permission.  The LRB upheld the officer’s decision to refuse planning permission for the erection of a fence at Denholm Mill, Denholm (SBC Ref: 19/00857/FUL) but reversed the Chief Planning Officer’s decisions to refuse planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse at Carlenrig Farm, Teviothead (SBC Ref: 19/00514/FUL) and for the erection of a dwellinghouse at Auburn Cottage, Ashkirk (SBC Ref: 19/01000/PPP) and granted planning permission for both proposed developments.

In relation to appeals to the Scottish Government, the appeal in relation to the erection of 7 wind turbines at Gilston Hill, near Heriot, which had been returned to the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) to re-determine following a successful challenge to the Court of Session to the Reporter’s decision, dated 7 February 2019, to approve the application (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2068-1) was dismissed on 6 February 2020.  The Reporter in this appeal considered that despite the contribution that the proposed wind farm would make to helping to meet renewable energy targets, this and other potential benefits would not outweigh the environmental harm caused by the proposal.

The appeal against the serving of an enforcement notice in respect of the erection of a 1.8m high fence on land at Silver Grange, Old Greenlaw Farm, Greenlaw in Berwickshire was dismissed on 5 February (DPEA Ref: ENA-140-2014).  The enforcement notice required the fence extending beyond the front elevation of the property to be removed or reduced in height to a maximum of 1 metre.  The enforcement notice was upheld subject to the time for compliance being increased from 1 month to 3 months.

Two wind farm applications submitted to the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the 1989 Act, to which the Scottish Borders Council has also objected, remain outstanding: (1) the application for a 12 turbine extension to the existing Fallago Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills; and (2) the application to extend the operational life of the existing Fallago Rig wind farm to coincide with that of the extension (if approved) (DPEA case references WIN-140-5 & WIN-140-6).  The reports on these appeals have been with Scottish Ministers since July 2018.  Following the receipt of objections from Scottish Borders Council in April 2019, an inquiry is to be held in relation to an application for an expansion of the Crystal Rig Wind Farm in the Lammermuirs, comprising the addition of 11 turbines to the existing 90 turbines (DPEA Ref: WIN-140-8).  The Inquiry will take place at the Volunteer Hall, Duns, commencing at 10.00am on Tuesday 10 March 2020.

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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