Development Management: October 2020 Update

The council’s Planning Department remains closed to the public with case officers working remotely from home.  Nevertheless, new planning applications continue 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 October, some 134 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees, were received.  The vast majority of applications related to the erection of single dwellinghouses and alterations and extensions to dwellinghouses, and works to trees.  In Galashiels, revised plans have been submitted for the erection of 20 apartments on the site of the demolished St. Aidan’s Church and Church Hall in Gala Park (SBC Ref: 20/01121/FUL).  A previous application for 24 apartments, submitted in April 2019, was withdrawn.  The revised plans comprise two blocks; 15 units in a 3 and 4 storey building facing onto Gala Park and 5 units in a 2-storey building facing on to the car park on Livingstone Place/St. Andrew Street.

The only other planning application of any particular note was perhaps the application for alterations at Trowmill, outside Hawick, to form storage, display and sales area for Podz R Us (SBC Ref: 20/01163/FUL).  Trowmill was a very successful knitwear factory with a popular restaurant and visitor centre, once employing over 60 staff.  It has been closed for some 10 years.  Podz R Us are manufacturers and distributers of leisure products such as camping pods, garden studios/offices/rooms, saunas, hot tubs, gazebos and garden furniture, and there has been an upsurge in demand for such products as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Seems like a very appropriate use for this former mill premises and the kind of development that the Scottish Borders should encourage.

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.

The number of applications determined by the Chief Planning and Housing Officer under delegated powers in October, at 119 decisions, continues to lag behind the number of applications received.  Consequently, the backlog continues to grow as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.  In Galashiels, the application by McDonalds for a certificate of lawful existing use that the restaurant and drive-thru at Wilderhaugh could operate round the clock was approved; the Chief Planning Officer accepted that the existing planning permission allowed the restaurant and drive-thru to operate without time limitation (i.e. for 24 hours a day seven days a week) (SBC Ref: 20/01055/CLEU). 

Perhaps the most interesting development granted planning permission this month is for the use of the property ‘Muttonhall’, a five bedroomed dwellinghouse which is located in a remote spot at the head of the Douglas Burn, a side valley of the upper Yarrow Valley, as a guest house (SBC Ref: 20/00140/FUL).  According to the Planning Statement submitted with the application, the proposal is intended to’ provide a hub for an integrated rural tourism enterprise, including a small wedding venue’.  During the 2019 season, the estate within which the property is located hosted 7 shooting parties consisting of between 8 and 12 visitors.  The proposal is intended to increase the number of visiting parties to 12.  The proposed change of use and proposed extension to the dwellinghouse will enable overnight accommodation for between 5 and 8 of the visiting parties.  In addition, it is intended to offer a deer stalking experience during July and August and an exclusive bespoke wedding venue with around 10 weddings a year.  This proposal fits in well with the Scottish Borders Tourism Strategy (2013-2020), which seeks to encourage attractions that increase the volume of overnight visitors.

Three applications were refused planning permission by the Chief Planning and Housing Officer under delegated powers: (i) the erection of a dwellinghouse at Whinneybrae, Skirling in Peeblesshire (SBC Ref: 20/00923/PPP); (ii) the erection of a dwellinghouse at Morebattle, near Kelso (SBC Ref: 20/00028/PPP); and (iii) formation of a dormer at 19 Myrescroft Road, Ancrum, Jedburgh (SBC Ref: 20/00537/FUL).

The Planning and Building Standards Committee met, remotely by Microsoft Teams, on Monday 5 October and considered five planning applications.  The committee granted planning permission for the demolition of the former church building, last used as offices, at West Grove, Melrose and the erection of a four-story retirement housing complex comprising 14 apartments in its place (SBC Ref: 20/00331/FUL).  The committee also agreed to renew the planning permission for a distillery on the site of the former Jedforest Hotel, near Camptown, south of Jedburgh (SBC Ref: 20/00109/FUL).  Plans for a distillery at this location were granted planning permission in January 2017 amidst a great deal of expectation that a first whisky distillery would be established in the Scottish Borders.  Three years later, the plans have not got off the ground, necessitating the application to renew the planning permission (which only lasts for three years).  The committee also granted planning permission for the erection of four poultry sheds, accommodating 37,000 hens and cockerels, delivered at 17 weeks old and bred for 48 weeks producing eggs, at Falsidehill Farm, west of Hume, near Kelso, despite objections from a number of neighbours and a 22,000 signature petition drawn up by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, (SBC Ref: 20/00390/FUL).  The egg producer at Hutton Hall Barns, near Hutton in Berwickshire, however, was not as successful.  Two applications by Maclean Eggs Ltd  to erect two further poultry buildings (sheds 5 & 6), each housing 32,000 free-range birds for egg production, were refused planning permission by the committee (SBC Ref: 20/00347/FUL & 20/470/FUL).  The surrounding area hosts numerous large scale poultry buildings and, despite the Chief Planning Officer recommending approval of both applications, the committee decided that the erection of additional poultry sheds in this location would have an unacceptable adverse cumulative impact on the landscape, prime agricultural land and the integrity of local biodiversity.  These decisions were made after a motion to carry out a site visit before making a decision was defeated on the casting vote of the new Chairman. 

The Local Review Body met on 19 October, conducted remotely by Microsoft Teams, and considered two appeals against refusals of planning permission by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers.  The LRB upheld the Chief Planning Officer’s decision to refuse an application for the erection of two dwellinghouses at Cowdenburn in Peeblesshire (SBC Ref: 20/00714/PPP & 20/00023/RREF).  The LRB continued the appeal against the Chief Planning Officer’s decision to refuse an application for the erection of a dwellinghouse at Old Belses, near Jedburgh to allow the Road Planning Officer to reassess the road access (SBC Ref: 20/00486/FUL & 20/00022/RREF).

In relation to appeals to Scottish Ministers, only one appeal remains outstanding; the appeal against the council’s refusal of planning permission for the erection of 52 holiday lodges on land north west of Willowdean House, Foulden in Berwickshire (SBC Ref: 20/00067/FUL & DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2081).  A previous application for a similar development was refused planning permission on 2 September 2019; an appeal to Scottish Ministers against that refusal was ruled out of time because it was not submitted within 6 months of the date of refusal by the council, thus prompting the repeat application.  The repeat application was refused by the Planning and Building Standards Committee on 3 August for similar reasons to the previous decision [on the grounds that the proposed holiday lodges are not in keeping with the local environment and would have an unacceptable adverse impact on local infrastructure, specifically the capacity of local roads].

The appeal against the council’s decision to refuse planning permission for the erection of 8 wind turbines at Wull Muir, Heriot was decided on 19 October (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2080).  The Reporter dismissed the appeal on the grounds that, in this case, the landscape and visual impacts are particularly severe and, whilst the benefits of the scheme are acknowledged, the power generation of the proposal is relatively modest.  The Reporter considered that, whilst it is likely that some landscape capacity does exist in the wider Moorfoot Plateau to accommodate additional large turbines, this particular proposal is sited too close to the escarpment edge.  An interesting decision but does this leave the door open for other proposals?

A decision is also awaited on the application under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 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 council’s objection relates to the visual impact of the proposed red aviation lights to be fitted to seven of the eleven turbines and the impact on the landscape character of the area.  The Reporters appointed to consider the proposal conducted an unaccompanied inspection of the site and viewpoints on 3 September. 

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.