Development Management: January 2021 Update

As 2021 beckons, the future looks brighter but the council’s Planning Department remains closed to the public with case officers working remotely from home.  The vaccination programme is now well under-way and the lock-down since the New Year seems to be having an effect on the spread of the disease but there still seems to be a long way to go before social interaction will be anything like it was last January and the Planning Department returns to ‘normal’.  The planning process, however, continues; planning applications are being submitted and decisions must be made. 

In January 2021, 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.  There have been one or two more significant applications. 

Perhaps the most exciting application this month is that for the proposed redevelopment of the fish market in Eyemouth (SBC Ref: 21/00055/FUL).  Permission for the demolition of the existing building, a concrete portal-framed structure constructed in the 1960s, was granted in November last year.  The fish market had been converted into a maritime museum, in the form of a galleon, in 2005 but has been lying empty since 2016.  It is generally accepted that the building has little architectural or historic merit and detracts from the character and appearance of the harbour area.  Eyemouth Harbour Trust has received funding from the Scottish Government and Scottish Borders Council to construct a new building on the site as part of the Eyemouth Waterfront Regeneration Project in a bid to ‘re-imagine’ the harbour side.  It is hoped that this development will be the catalyst for other projects to modernise the harbour area.  The proposed development comprises a series of pavilions with gaps between to allow views of the harbour.  The design of the pavilions reflects the traditional gable design of the harbour frontage.  The ground floor of each pavilion would provide space for local businesses, craft shops, a food hall, and community use such as exhibitions, senior and after-school activities.  Workspaces would be provided above.  This is no doubt a significant proposal in terms of the transformation of the harbour area and of Eyemouth, which has seen its status change as fishing has declined.

In Kelso, the Border Union Agricultural Society (BUAS) has submitted an application for the siting of touring caravans/motorhomes on part of Springwood Park (SBC Ref: 21/00049/CLEU).  Touring caravans/motorhomes have been regularly sited within Springwood Park when various events have been held on the Showground, such as dog shows, but permission is now sought to allow caravans/motorhomes to be sited at other times, on the basis that caravans/motorhomes provide a safe, socially-distanced holiday accommodation.

In Peebles, we seem to have another instance of a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) submitted with glaringly inadequate information.  This application, for residential development in the grounds of Kingsmeadows House, simply comprises an application form and location plan with little or no information about the scale and nature of the proposal (SBC Ref: 20/01624/PAN).  The application says little about the public involvement measures to be undertaken other than that there will be an online community consultation at some future date, which will be advertised in the local press.  At last, the council’s planning officer responsible for such major applications has got wise to the ever increasing practice of developers of drip feeding the public with a proposal and has reminded the developer’s agent that the objective of Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) is for communities to be better informed and engaged meaningfully with developers.  This means the details of an application should be comprehensive, be easy to understand, jargon free, accessible and relevant.  Let us hope that the information provided in this case will fully meet these requirements and not consist of a lot of ifs and buts, and that the public will have sufficient warning in the press and sufficient time to assess the impact the proposal on the community.  Concerns have already been raised by the public about the lack of detail of the proposal and it will be interesting to see when the date for the online community engagement event is advertised in the local press [hopefully at least 7 days before the event!] and how much information is provided about the proposed development in the online consultation event.

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 December, at 92 decisions, is again well below the number of applications received.  Consequently, the backlog continues to grow as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.  Five applications were refused planning permission by the Chief Planning and Housing Officer under delegated powers: (i) erection of a dwellinghouse at Dogcraig Cottage, Scotsmill, Peebles (SBC Ref: 20/01350/PPP); (ii) the erection of a boundary fence at 1 Raeburn Lane, Selkirk (SBC Ref: 20/01234/FUL); (iii) the installation of replacement windows at 5 Sandbed, Hawick (SBC Ref: 20/01236/FUL); (iv) erection of polystructure cattle shed and hydroponics unit at Fishwick in Berwickshire (SBC Ref: 18/00519/FUL; and (v) erection of polystructure cattle shed and hydroponics unit at Renton Bush, Reston, Berwickshire (SBC Ref: 18/00518/FUL).

In relation to items (iv) and (v) above, each of these proposals comprised a large 40m by 50m building to house cattle and a separate 40m by 10m hydroponics unit producing feed for the cattle.  In both cases, significant groundworks had already been carried out and, in the case of the Renton Bush proposal, construction of the buildings had also begun prior to the submission of the application.  Also, the proposals formed part of a wider ambitious demonstration farming project comprising, amongst other things, wind turbines.  The proposed developments generated a lengthy dialogue between the Planning Department and the applicant’s agents.  However, although the potential economic benefits are significant, the Chief Planning Office had over-riding concerns in relation to the proposal to erect new agricultural buildings unrelated to any existing farm building complex.  The Chief Planning Officer considered that insufficient information had been provided to demonstrate that unacceptable adverse ecological impacts would not arise from the developments; and also that they would adversely affect the surrounding rural character.  In respect of the Renton Bush proposal, this site is located within an area recorded as semi-natural ancient native woodland and prior to the application being submitted, a significant number of mature trees were felled to clear the site without an appropriate felling licence, generating objections from Scottish Forestry and the Woodland Trust.  Whilst this is a matter for Scottish Forestry, the impact of the development on protected trees was considered to render the proposal contrary to the local development plan.

The Planning and Building Standards Committee met, remotely by Microsoft Teams, on Monday 11 January to consider one planning applications.  The committee gave the green light to a residential development of five dwellinghouses on the old station yard at Dolphinton in Peeblesshire (SBC Ref: 20/01382/PPP).  At its meeting on 1 February, the Planning and Building Standards Committee had no hesitation in granting planning permission to Network Rail for the much anticipated re-opening of Reston rail station in Berwickshire (SBC Ref: 20/01133/FUL).  After a long campaign, this station, closed in 1964, is going to be re-opened with the construction of new platforms, waiting shelters and car parking.  It is hoped that this development will open up other transport links with the eastern Borders and aid regeneration.  However, we will have to wait to see what service is provided at the station.

In relation to appeals to Scottish Ministers, perhaps as expected, the appeals 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) have been upheld and planning permission granted for these developments.  The Reporter in these cases was satisfied that the rural character of the area was appropriate for the scale of development proposed and that the proposals would not have an adverse impact on local biodiversity subject to the imposition of the appropriate planning conditions.  The appeal against the refusal of planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land at Burnside, Lower Green, West Linton in Peeblesshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2084) and 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 both remain outstanding (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2081). 

In relation to the compulsory purchase order for 2 High Street/12 Market Place, Jedburgh, one objection remains outstanding and, accordingly, unless the objection is withdrawn a public local inquiry will require to be held (DPEA Ref: CPO-SBD-011).  The objector has been given until the 3 February 2021 to withdraw the objection.  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). 

Finally, the deadline for representations on the Proposed Local Development Plan (LDP2), the 25 February 2021, has now passed.  According to the council’s publicity, this deadline is final and any representations received after this date will not be considered.  It will be interesting to see the extent to which the Proposed LDP has excited the Borders public.  The proposals for Peebles and Peeblesshire will no doubt figure in the list of representations as will certain proposals in Galashiels.  The proposed housing site opposite Abbotsford House, the proposed new Galashiels Academy on Scott Park and the proposals for the Hollybush area have certainly caught the attention of some members of the Galashiels community.  I’m sure that more will be heard of these, and other contentious issues in the local development plan.  The next step will be for the council’s planning officials to examine all the representations made and present them to the Council.  Watch this space!

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.

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