Development Management Update: April/May 2020

As a result of the Coronavirus lockdown, planning activity has been somewhat limited during April and May with construction work in abeyance and architects, planning consultants and tradesmen at home protecting their families.  The council’s Planning Department has been closed to the public with case officers working remotely from home.  Nevertheless, new planning applications have continued to be registered and are being processed in as normal a way as possible; applications continue to be publicised on the council’s website and in the local press.

Some 83 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees, were received by Scottish Borders Council during April 2020 and 97 applications were received during May 2020.  However, site visits are not being undertaken and decisions on applications are, inevitably, taking longer.  Only 65 applications were decided by the Chief Planning and Housing Officer under delegated powers in April and 73 in May.  Meetings of the Planning and Building Standards Committee and the Local Review Body were cancelled in April but were conducted in May remotely by Microsoft Teams.  The pubic was excluded from contributing to these meetings.

The vast majority of applications during the past two months relate to the erection of single dwellinghouses and alterations and extensions to dwellinghouses.  One interesting application is that for the erection of 11 dwellinghouses on a site at Buckholm Corner, Galashiels, a site that has long been identified as a housing site in the development plan but has never been developed (SBC Ref: 20/00436/FUL).  The application site forms part of a larger site allocated for residential development with an indicative capacity of 60 dwellings.  The application seeks an amendment to the approved layout, dating from 1979.  The site has a valid planning permission on the basis that a ‘material’ start has been made to the development due to the construction of an access point from the A7.  Are we going to see some of this site developed, coronavirus permitting, at last!

A Proposal of Application Notice has also been submitted for the development of the remaining part of the Buckholm Corner site for residential purposes (SBC Ref: 20/00469/PAN).  An online public engagement event was held on 4 June from 4.00pm to 8.00pm.  The proposed community engagement event was advertised in the local press (Southern Report) on 28 May.  It will be interesting to find out from the pre-application consultation report, which is required when the planning application is submitted, the extent to which the public were engaged in the on-line consultation process.

In Hawick, a Proposal of Application Notice has been submitted, on behalf of the council, for a mixed development on Guthrie Drive, Stirches, comprising a 60 bed residential care housing unit, 40 extra care housing units and 12 learning disability housing units (SBC Ref: 20/00527/PAN).  Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the public consultation on the proposed development has been delayed.  Some form of online public consultation is envisaged, however.  This must be advertised in the local press at least 7 days before any public event or online forum.  Any subsequent planning application cannot be submitted before 10 August and not before the proposed pre-application consultation has been carried out, either in public or online.  The restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic are certainly proving challenging for the planning system but it is hoped that such restrictions do not unduly hinder proper consultation and interaction between developers and the public on such major proposals.  Press reports already indicate differences of opinion amongst the local community on the desirability of this site for such a development.

An application in Eyemouth by the Harbour Trust for the erection of an office/storage building and associated facilities, including re-profiling of the existing shelter mound and demolition of adjacent harbour wall at Gunsgreen Basin has generated a great deal of objection/concern from the diving fraternity (SBC Ref: 20/00523/FUL).  The proposed development is required in connection with the proposed Neart Na Gaoithe offshore wind farm development.  Although the proposal is a “local” development” in terms of the Planning Acts, and there is no requirement to undertake pre-application consultation, a public drop-in event was held on 16 January 2020.  Reaction was generally positive.  However, the application has generated concerns from divers in relation to access to Greenends Gully at the end of the slipway.  Apparently, this is one of the safest shore diving areas in the locality enabling new divers to gain essential experience. The agent for the developer has sought to reassure those concerned that the foreshore access road will be maintained, although on a modified route.  The Harbour Trust is preparing a separate planning application in relation to this relocated road.

A planning application has been submitted for the extension of the commencement time period for the erection of two distilleries with associated visitor centre and other facilities, including the change of use of the former Jedforest Hotel, south of Jedburgh, to office and staff accommodation (SBC Ref: 20/00109/FUL).  Planning permission was granted for this development on 31 January 2017 on condition that development must commence within three years of the date of the permission (SBC Ref: 16/00744/FUL).  Planning permission expired on 31 January 2020, thus requiring the re-submission of the planning application.

Elsewhere, an application has been received to prolong the life of the Dun Law Wind Farm at Soutra, near Oxton, granted planning permission in 1996 and due to expire in 2021 (SBC. Ref: 20/00522/FUL).  An extension is requested to 2034, to coincide with the lifespan of the Wind Farm Extension.  This application is not unexpected and clearly illustrates that the 25 life-span normally permitted in the first granting of wind farm planning permissions is not the end of the matter.  I wonder whether a further extension for the whole scheme will be applied for in 2033.  Hopefully, if I’m still around and this website is still operational, you will find news of it here!

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 April and May, some 130 applications were determined by the Chief Planning and Housing Officer under delegated powers, somewhat less than the usual rate of decision making (100 per month).  Seven applications were refused planning permission by the Chief Planning and Housing Officer under delegated powers, three relating to holiday accommodation: (i) erection of a treehouse for use as holiday let at Sandystones Farmhouse, Ancrum (SBC Ref: 20/00132/PPP); (ii) extension to caravan park, Pease Bay, Cockburnspath, Berwickshire (SBC Ref: 19/01709/FUL); and (iii) erection of 15 huts at Wester Deans, West Linton, Peeblesshire (SBC Ref: 19/01256/FUL).  Three refusals related to residential property: (i) extension and alterations to Glen More House, Lamberton, Berwickshire (SBC Ref: 20/00346/CLPU); (ii) alterations and extension to 1 Belville Farm cottage, Coldstream, Berwickshire; and (iii) erection of dwellinghouse at Thickside, Jedburgh (SBC Ref: 20/00235/PPP).  The seventh refusal relates to the formation of a vehicle display area and erection of new sales building on Edinburgh Road, Jedburgh (SBC Ref: 20/00283/FUL).  An appeal to the Local Review Body against this decision has already been submitted (SBC Ref: 20/00014/RREF).

At its meeting on 18 May, conducted remotely, the Planning and Building Standards Committee approved the planning application for the erection of a dwellinghouse on Eddy Road, Newstead notwithstanding the receipt of a number of objections from neighbouring householders concerning, amongst other things, the inadequacy of the access to the site and the loss of green space (SBC Ref: 19/01740/FUL).  Planning permission was granted subject to a legal agreement in respect of the long term future maintenance of the area of the site which is to remain as public open space.

The Local Review Body (LRB) met on 25 May and considered six appeals against the Chief Planning and Housing Officer’s decisions to refuse planning permission under delegated powers.  The LRB decided to continue two appeals: (i) against the decision to refuse planning permission for the formation of a workshop for a joinery business at the former Buccleuch Hotel, Trinity Street, Hawick (SBC Ref: 19/01784/FUL); and (ii) against the decision to refuse planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse at Blyth Bridge, Peeblesshire (SBC Ref: 19/01645/FUL).  The LRB upheld the officer’s decision to refuse planning permission for the erection of two dwellinghouses at Benrig, Cuddyside, Peebles (SBC Ref: 19/00193/FUL) but reversed the Chief Planning Officer’s decision to refuse planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse in the former walled garden of Ashiestiel Mansion House, near Clovenfords and granted planning permission (SBC Ref: 19/01629/PPP).  The LRB also granted planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse and associated workshop/garage at Tarf House, West Linton (SBC Ref: 19/00193/FUL) and the erection of a dwellinghouse at Town O’Rule, Bonchester bridge (SBC Ref: 18/01194/FUL).

Two appeals have been submitted to Scottish Ministers: (i) against the serving of an enforcement notice alleging the erection of a building without planning permission at Linthaugh Farm Cottage, Jedburgh (DPEA Ref: ENA-140-2015); and (ii) against the decision to refuse planning permission for the erection of 8 wind turbines at Wull Muir, Heriot (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2080).  Both appeals are in the early stages of the appeal process and a decision has yet to made as to how the wind farm appeal will be dealt with; whether a hearing or public inquiry will be necessary or appropriate.  The application for a proposed retail store and restaurant on Commercial Road, Hawick, notified to Scottish Ministers because of flooding concerns, is on hold because of Covid-19 concerns (DPEA Ref: NA-SBD-056).  A decision on this proposal is likely to be considerably delayed!

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 to be determined: (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, a hearing was held on 10 March 2020 in Duns 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).  In light of the current COVID-19 restrictions, the Reporters have been unable to conduct the inspection of the site and viewpoints and they will be unable to conclude their report until these site inspections have been carried out.  In the meantime, parties have been requested to submit their final observations and closing submissions.

See my Development Planning update for the latest news on the review of the local development plan and related issues.

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.