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 November, some 124 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.
On the tourism front, an application has been submitted for the erection of eight holiday lodges in woodland at Broomy Braes on the east side of the Leader Water within the policy grounds of Thirlestane Castle, Lauder (SBC Ref: 20/01355/FUL). Yet another request for a scoping opinion on a large windfarm proposal submitted to the Scottish Government under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1969 has been received by the council; this time for a proposed 15 turbines with a maximum tip height of 220 metres at Ditcher Law, which is located 8km north-west of Lauder, on the east side of the A68 adjacent to the Dun Law Windfarm (SBC Ref: 20/01486/SCO).
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 November, at 87 decisions, is well below the number of applications received. Consequently, the backlog continues to grow as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. In Galashiels, planning permission has been granted for the conversion of Thorniedean House on the Melrose Road from offices to a single dwellinghouse (SBC Ref: 19/01699/FUL). This Victorian villa has been used in the past as offices by the former Selkirkshire County Council and the Borders Regional Council. It has been empty for a number of years and, together with the adjacent former Borders College building is allocated for redevelopment in the adopted local development plan.
The decision to grant permission for the demolition of the former fish market in Eyemouth will no doubt be welcomed (SBC Ref: 20/00482/CON). The existing building, a concrete portal-framed structure, was constructed in the 1960s and converted into a maritime museum following the construction of new facilities on the east side of the harbour in the 1990s. The design of the museum mimicked the appearance of a galleon! The building has little architectural or historic merit and detracts from the character and appearance of the harbour area. Its demolition will open up views of the harbour and I doubt whether it will be missed! At the other end of the Region, planning permission has been granted for the siting of 17 holiday pods at Riverview Holiday Park, Mangerton, near Newcastleton (SBC Ref: 19/01815/FUL).
Three applications were refused planning permission by the Chief Planning and Housing Officer under delegated powers: (i) an application to determine whether the erection of an ancillary building within the garden ground of a dwellinghouse at Broughton, Peeblesshire was permitted development (SBC Ref: 20/01370/CLPU); (ii) an application to determine whether the conversion of a stone barn to form residential accommodation at East Mains Farmhouse, Gordon, Berwickshire was permitted development (SBC Ref: 20/01047/CLPU); and (iii) an application for the erection of a dwellinghouse at Easter Ulston, Jedburgh (SBC Ref: 20/00956/PPP).
The Planning and Building Standards Committee met, remotely by Microsoft Teams, on Monday 2 November to consider one planning application. The committee decided to refuse planning permission for the erection of two dwellinghouses on land at Ballantyne Place, Peebles (SBC Ref: 20/00691/FUL). The Ballantyne Place development, to the north of March Street Mills, was constructed in 2002 and the application site was set aside for the provision of a play area in accordance with the planning permission for the development. The Chief Planning Officer, in recommending approval of planning permission, drew attention to the fact that council policy on the provision of play areas within developments has changed since the original planning permission was granted and there was no reason to continue to require the land to be retained for a play area (which had not yet been provided by the developer) given that the council’s policy now was to decommission small play areas and consolidate play provision in larger facilities. Nevertheless, the committee decided to refuse the application by 4 votes to 3.
The Local Review Body met on 16 November, conducted remotely by Microsoft Teams, and considered three appeals against refusals of planning permission by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers. The LRB reversed the Chief Planning Officer’s decision to refuse an application for the erection of a dwellinghouse at Old Belses, near Jedburgh and granted planning permission, following a reassessment of the proposed access to the development (SBC Ref: 20/00486/FUL & 20/00022/RREF). The LRB decided to continue consideration of the appeal against the refusal of planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse on garden ground attached to Clifton Cottage, Kirk Yetholm pending a virtual site visit ( a viewing of a video of the site to be taken by a member of the planning department) (SBC Ref: 20/00453/FUL & 20/00018/RREF).
In relation to appeals to Scottish Ministers, many residents of Hawick will be pleased to know that Scottish Ministers have decided to grant planning permission for the erection of a retail unit and drive thru restaurant and takeaway on Commercial Road, Hawick (DPEA Ref: NA-SBD-056). Scottish Borders Council’s decision to grant the application in March 2020 had been referred to Scottish Ministers because of the perceived flood risk. Scottish Ministers agreed with the Scottish Government Reporter, appointed to consider the proposal, that the proposal was consistent with the Local Development Plan which identifies the site for regeneration. They also accepted the Reporter’s findings that the site would be protected by the flood protection measures presently being implemented and that the development would not add to the flood risk.
As was perhaps expected, appeals have been submitted in relation to the refusals of planning permission for the erection of two poultry buildings at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2082 & PPA-140-2083). An appeal has also been submitted against the refusal of planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land at Burnside, Lower Green, West Linton in Peeblesshire (SBC Ref: PPA-140-2084). 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 remains outstanding (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].
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.
Finally, I was interested to read the comments of the Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party at the recent 2020 Scottish Party Conference on the subject of empowering local communities. The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, which received Royal Assent on 25 July 2019, introduced provisions for Local Place Plans (LPPs), produced by local communities, which set out their priorities for the development and use of land in the local area. The LPP must be taken into account by the planning authority in the preparation of the Local Development Plan. Research carried out by the Royal Town Planning Institute (Scotland) indicated that a considerable amount of funding would be required to facilitate the production of LPPs. Support in terms of skills and resources would need to be provided to communities by planning authorities if LPPs are to be effective. We await further information from the Scottish Government on the roll-out of LPPs!
Douglas Ross, the Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, has gone much further and, according to David Mundell, MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (which includes the old county of Peeblesshire), Douglas Ross has ‘promised’ that he would deliver the power for local communities to veto unwanted developments and ‘end the cycle of Scottish Government Ministers overruling community objections’. Presumably, in referring to Scottish Ministers, he also means Scottish Government Reporters, who make probably 90% of the decisions on planning appeals, under delegated powers. At first glance, this might sound attractive to communities who have seen wind farms and other developments approved, on appeal, by Reporters against the wishes of varying numbers of local objectors. Of course, the counter-argument is that, when it comes to implementing planning policy (which is set out in national planning policy guidance as well as regional strategic development plans and local development plans), a dispassionate view is required from a third party. Also, how would a community reach a decision, would a referendum be required every time?
Community councils were established by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, which enacted the recommendations of the Wheatley Commission Report of 1969. Some 67 community councils were established in 1975 by the then four District Councils in the Borders Region. Since then, community councils have played their part, to varying degrees, in influencing development and changes in land use in their area through involvement in the preparation of development plans and in responding to planning applications. The success of community councils is difficult to measure and perhaps it is time to thoroughly examine how local communities can become more proactive in shaping the future of their communities.