Development Management: June 2020 Update

The council’s Planning Department remains 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.  In June, the number of applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees, received during the month returned to the usual level of around 100-120 applications per month, with 118 applications.  However, the number decided, at just 75 decisions means that the number of outstanding applications is rising as a result of delays imposed by Government restrictions on working.  Site visits are not being undertaken and decisions on applications are, inevitably, taking longer.  Furthermore, there was no meeting of the Planning and Building Standards Committee in June and none is programmed for July.  Although a meeting of the Local Review Body (LRB) went ahead on 1 June, conducted remotely by Microsoft Teams, that programmed for 15 June was cancelled.  The next meeting of the LRB is programmed for 13 July.

The vast majority of applications received in June related to the erection of single dwellinghouses and alterations and extensions to dwellinghouses, and works to trees.  Of particular note is an application, on behalf of Waverley Housing, for the demolition of the existing flats at Beech Avenue in Langlee, Galashiels and the erection of 109 new houses incorporating amenity housing (SBC Ref: 20/00665/FUL).  The existing development has had a certain reputation stemming from the levels of anti-social behaviour and problematic tenants.  The proposed regeneration replaces 263 homes (140 maisonettes, 87 flats and 36 patio houses) with 213 homes consisting of 44 maisonettes, 48 flats, 36 patio houses and 85 terraced houses.  The mix of housing will reduce the number of maisonettes and flats served by communal stairs in favour of larger family homes with ground level access and private gardens.

Notification has been received of a proposal for a wind farm of 15 turbines with a maximum tip height of 180 metres at Greystone Knowe, south west of Brockhouse Farmhouse, Fountainhall, north of Stow (SBC Ref: 20/00593/SCO).  The proposal, with an expected capacity in excess of 50 MW, requires the consent of Scottish Ministers under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989.  Scottish Borders Council is a consultee and should it object to the proposal, a public inquiry or hearing is likely.  At this stage, the council has been consulted on the scope of the environmental impact assessment of the potentially significant effects of the proposal.  In accordance with established practice, the applicant is planning to arrange a series of public consultation events, preceded by a newsletter.  In view of the Covid-19 restrictions, any public consultation is likely to be based on remote/virtual methods.  Look out for the press coverage!

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 June, only 75 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).  Five applications were refused planning permission by the Chief Planning and Housing Officer under delegated powers; four relating to the erection of dwellinghouses: (i) the erection of a dwellinghouse at Clifton Cottage, High Street, Kirk Yetholm (SBC Ref: 20/00453/FUL); (ii) the erection of a dwellinghouse at Beechhurst Lodge, Hawick (SBC Ref: 20/00431/PPP); (iii) the erection of a dwellinghouse on plot 4 at Hume Hall Holdings, Hume, Kelso (SBC Ref: 19/01783/PPP); and (iv) the erection of a dwellinghouse on plot 5 at Hume Hall Holdings, Hume, Kelso (SBC Ref: 19/01782/PPP).  The erection of a 17.5m high 5G telecommunications mast at Queen Street, Galashiels was refused permission on the grounds that the mast would have an unacceptable and harmful visual impact on the surrounding area due to its height and bulk (SBC Ref: 20/00417/C67).

The Local Review Body (LRB) met, remotely, on 1 June and considered five appeals against the Chief Planning and Housing Officer’s decisions to refuse planning permission under delegated powers.  The LRB upheld the officer’s decision to refuse a variation to the planning permissions for two houses at Mounthooly, Jedburgh to allow the lifespan of the existing planning permissions to be extended by three years because of flooding concerns (SBC Refs: 18/00748/FUL & 18/00749/FUL) and the officer’s decision to refuse a retrospective application for the installation of uPVC replacement windows at 10 Exchange Street, Jedburgh (SBC Ref: 19/01019/FUL).  The LRB reversed the Chief Planning Officer’s decision to refuse planning permission for the erection of two dwellinghouse on land at Quarry Bank, Hume, near Kelso (SBC Ref: 19/01432/PPP).  An appeal against the refusal of planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse at the disused sawmill, Cowdenknowes, Earlston was continued for more information (SBC Ref: 19/01611/FUL).

Two appeals to Scottish Ministers remain outstanding: (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 now proceeding (DPEA Ref: NA-SBD-056).  Comments are being exchanged and an unaccompanied site visit is to be made by the Reporter delegated to deal with the case.

Two wind farm applications submitted, back in 2016, to the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the 1989 Electricity Act, to which the Scottish Borders Council had objected, were determined on 25 June.  The applications for a 12 turbine extension to the existing Fallago Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills, and for extending the operational life of the existing Fallago Rig wind farm, which comprises 48 turbines, by 5 years to coincide with that of the extension (if approved), were the subject of a public inquiry in 2017 (DPEA case references WIN-140-5 & WIN-140-6).  The report on these applications was submitted to Scottish Ministers in July 2018 and it has taken two years for St. Andrew’s House to reach a decision.  The Reporter recommended that the Fallago Rig Extension be refused and that the proposed variation to the life of the existing Fallago Rig Wind Farm be also refused.  The Scottish Ministers have agreed with the Reporter and refused consent for the Fallago Rig Extension but have decided to grant permission for the extension of the life of the existing wind farm on the grounds that extending the operational period of the wind farm by 5 years is consistent with national energy policy and that this benefit outweighs the continuation of the significant cumulative landscape and visual effects on the Lammermuirs of the Fallago Rig Wind Farm, in conjunction with the Dun Law and Crystal Rig wind farms.  Scottish Ministers have also awarded the applicant in this case expenses against the Scottish Borders Council in relation to its objection on the grounds of noise impact, which it maintained but did not pursue at the inquiry, on the grounds that it led the applicant to undertake unnecessary expense in preparation for the public inquiry.  A lesson for the future!

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.  The decision on this application, which could be some months if not years away, will be interesting in view of the decision to refuse additional turbines at Fallago.  Are Scottish Ministers saying that as far as wind turbines in the Lammermuirs is concerned “enough is enough”?

 

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.