In accordance with the Town and Country Planning (Development Planning (Scotland) Regulations 2008, the Scottish Borders Proposed Local Development Plan is now available for public comment. The period for representations to be made to the council extends to 25 January 2021. As previously intimated, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the usual methods for consultation on the proposed local development plan; exhibitions, public events and public meetings, are impossible. Copies of the relevant documents will not be available for inspection at public libraries or council contact centres, as is the normal practice. However, the council has produced an online video presentation and the proposed local development plan (in two volumes) is available for inspection on the council’s website.
The proposed local development plan (LDP2) is a major planning document and, as stated by Councillor Simon Mountford, the council’s Executive Member for Enhancing the Built Environment and Natural Heritage, “The Plan will affect all Borderers on a daily basis, setting out where they can live, work, shop and socialise. It identifies the housing and economic needs of all the towns and settlements in the Scottish Borders as well as the policies that will guide and govern future development.”
It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that more has not been done to publicise the availability of the proposed local development plan for comment at this crucial time in the development plan process for this is the main opportunity for the public to have their say. The formal notice of the publication of the Plan in the local press appears (in very small type) lost amongst adverts for allotment regulations and road closing orders. In the Winter 2020 edition of the council’s own newspaper, SBCONNECT, a piece entitled ‘Your views are wanted on Local Development Plan’ takes up little more than half a column. Clearly, education matters, which has a two-page spread, and being prepared for winter weather, which has a similar two-page coverage, are far more important. It is a great pity that the opportunity has not been taken in the council’s newspaper to give some prominence to the major policy issues and proposals set out in the proposed local development plan.
Little attention has been paid, so far, in the local press to the content of the local development plan. Perhaps, our local journalists could pursue their role of informing the public and stimulating debate by devoting some space to the policies and proposals in the local development plan. Surely, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that a page or two could be found over a couple of weekly editions to draw attention to some of the more important policies and proposals that are to affect our lives on a daily basis.
One issue that has grabbed the headlines this week is the council’s investigation of a site for a replacement Galashiels Academy, which would include most, if not all, of Scott Park. On 6 October the Executive Committee of the Council approved a report on Secondary Schools which suggests that the proposed location for the new build is on the town side of the existing building and extends into the existing Scott Park. This was a couple of weeks after the full Council approved the proposed local development plan, on 25 September, which makes no mention of such a proposal. Indeed, future education provision warrants little attention in the local development plan, which seems strange given its purpose is to set out future policies and proposals for the use of land and development. The proposals map for Galashiels identifies the whole of Scott Park and Gala Policies as Key Greenspace. Policy EP11 in the Plan is unequivocal: “Key Greenspaces as identified on Proposals Maps will be protected from development that will result in their loss.” Seems like a lack of communication somewhere.