County Planning in the 1940s and 50s: Roxburghshire County Council

Roxburghshire County Council established its Planning Advisory Committee in February 1944 to deal with the first applications for planning permission under the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943.  The Duke of Buccleuch was elected its first Chairman, with the committee advised by the County Clerk and County Architect.  John A.W. Grant, Architect/Planner of Edinburgh was engaged to prepare a planning scheme for the county.  Under the 1943 Act, the Department of Health expected planning applications to be dealt with within 14 days; there was no such thing as neighbour notification or public consultation of any kind, except that town councils (Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso) were consulted on applications within their areas.  During the 1940s, large-scale housing schemes proposed by the town councils, such as at Silverbuthall and Burnfoot in Hawick and at Headrig in Jedburgh, were approved with little fuss, and with little planning advice other than that obtained from the County Surveyor, County Architect and County Sanitary Inspector.

A major issue for Roxburgh County Council was the future of the Charlesfield Bomb Factory site, near St. Boswells, built in 1942.  It was one of only two factories in Britain producing incendiary bombs and at its peak employed 1,300 people and produced over 1 million bombs a month.  Production ceased in 1945 and it became a Royal Navy Armaments Depot to store small arms and guns.  In 1947, it still employed over 170 male workers but both the Hawick and Galashiels Trades Councils were concerned about its future and campaigned to secure it as an industrial site.  However, it continued to be used as a storage, maintenance and repair facility for the Admiralty, employing about 100 workers (male and female), until the 1960s.

The Regional Survey and Plan for Central and South-East Scotland prepared by Sir Frank Mears, and published in 1946, recommended the establishment of a joint committee of local authorities based in a new regional hub at St. Boswells/Newtown St. Boswells where offices, a new hospital, an agricultural college, student accommodation and housing would be developed.  Industrial development would be concentrated in the existing burghs but the Charlesfield munitions depot was identified as a potential site for an assembly plant for the hundreds of pre-fabricated houses required after the war.  However, the idea of a regional centre at Newtown St. Boswells did not go down well with the four Border county councils; it was considered that the centralisation of authority in one location did not take due account of the historic pattern of development in the Scottish Borders and local politics.

Nevertheless, following the enactment of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947, which introduced wide-ranging planning powers to control development, including the requirement to prepare development plans, discussions were held between the four Border county councils regarding the co-ordination of town and country planning across the region.  Although Peeblesshire County Council did not consider there would be any benefit to its area from such co-ordination, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Berwickshire County Councils decided to form a joint planning advisory committee for such purpose and in July 1947 approached architect/planner F.W.B. Charles, who had been the lead professional in the Central and South-East Scotland Study, to explore the practicalities of preparing a joint development plan for the three counties.  However, after providing estimated costs for his appointment to prepare a development plan for the three counties, and further deliberation on the practicalities of employing a consultant, the joint planning advisory committee, on the recommendation of the three county clerks, decided in October 1947 not to proceed with a joint development plan.  The reason provided in the minutes is the progress that had been made by Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire County Councils on the preparatory surveys of their areas, although it has to be said that the progress made by these two councils was not exceptional.  Indeed, work on the survey of Roxburghshire County continued throughout the next two years and it was December 1949 before an interim survey report was produced by John A.W. Grant.

At the end of 1949, Roxburghshire County Council still had no planning staff of its own, advice on planning applications being provided by the County Architect.  John A.W. Grant was engaged to prepare the development plan.  However, progress was slow; much time was spent on up-dating the out-dated 1:2500 scale OS Maps for the burghs (1921 editions for Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso).  The 1947 Act required planning authorities to prepare a development plan within 3 years of the commencement date, 1 July 1948, and in 1951 the Department of Health for Scotland suggested that the council should employ its own planning staff but the council was not persuaded.  However, as the years passed by and the Planning Advisory Committee became increasingly dis-satisfied with progress on the development plan, the council decided in October 1952 to appoint additional staff in the County Architects Department to assist with the preparation of the development plan.  The services of John A.W. Grant were dispensed with.

The County Architect, Alastair M. Milne, was appointed County Architect and Planning Officer in March 1953 and the Planning Advisory Committee was re-named the Planning Committee.  George B. Ovens, who would rise to become Depute County Planning Officer in 1968 and would be appointed Depute Director of Planning and Development for the Borders Regional Council in 1975, was poached from Selkirkshire County Council and was appointed Town Planning Draughtsman.  In November 1953, a planning assistant was appointed to provide further assistance with development control matters.

During the 1950s, there was a proliferation of advertisements, on hotels, public houses, garages and petrol filling stations, and advanced signs in the countryside.  The council designated the whole of the county as an Area of Special Control for Advertisements, except for the burgh of Hawick, parts of the burghs of Jedburgh and Kelso and parts of Melrose, Lilliesleaf, Newstead and St. Boswells.  The Committee agreed to the retention of advanced signs such as that for the Peebles Hydro located on the A68 at Newtown St. Boswells (one of a number of such signs sited throughout the Borders area) but requested the removal of others, such as a similar sign advertising the Peebles Hydro on the A68 south of Jedburgh and signs for the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel on the A68.  Mindful of the growing attraction of caravanning and camping, caravan sites were granted planning permission on the A68 south of Jedburgh and on the A7 south of Teviothead and north of Galashiels; planning permission was granted for a motel and petrol filling station on the A7 at Groundistone Heights between Ashkirk and Hawick (which was never implemented).

Extensive consultations and discussions took place with the town councils over various allocations and proposals for Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso, and it would be May 1957 before a draft development plan comprising the Survey Report and Written Statement, County Map, Town Maps for Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose, Newtown St. Boswells and St. Boswells, and a Programme Map, was completed and submitted to the Department of Health for Scotland for informal comments.

The development plan was based on an estimated county population of 44,560 in 1972, a decrease of about 1,000 persons on the 1951 Census figure.  Clearly, the county council was not optimistic about the future.  No definite industrial proposals were included in the Plan other than in Jedburgh, where the collapse of the rayon industry in 1956 had resulted in the loss of some 500 jobs.  The policy on residential development was concentrated on replacing over-crowded and unfit houses and meeting general needs through local authority housing.  Road proposals dominated with major road improvements proposed for the A7 and A68 trunk roads and improvements to the A698.  Road widening schemes in Hawick, Kelso and Melrose required the demolition of large numbers of properties and major changes to the historic street patterns in these towns that would cause consternation in later years and would be dropped from subsequent development plans.

It would be December 1961, partly due to the delay in the response from the Department of Health on the draft development plan, before the finalised development plan was submitted to the Secretary of State; the last of the four county development plans in the Scottish Borders to be prepared.  The next post on planning in Roxburghshire will examine the approved development plan in some detail and will also look at the impact of the Government’s White Paper on the Scottish Economy 1965-1970 and the subsequent Central Borders Study: A Plan for Expansion, published in 1968.

 

County Planning in the 1940s and 50s: Selkirkshire County Council

The first meeting of Selkirkshire County Council’s Planning Committee was held on Thursday 28 October 1943 but it was at the second meeting on 18 January 1944 that it appointed its Chairman, Major Scott Plummer of Sunderland Hall, and conducted its first business.  The first task for the new committee was to establish a system for dealing with applications submitted under the Interim Development powers conferred by the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943.  Under the 1943 Act, the Department of Health for Scotland expected planning applications to be dealt with within 14 days; there was no such thing as neighbour notification or public consultation of any kind.  In Selkirkshire, the County Clerk dealt with applications timeously and reported to the Planning Committee.

The first planning application, approved at the committee held on 28 April 1944, was for improvements and alterations to Langhaugh House on the Melrose Road, Galashiels [now demolished!].  Only five other planning applications were received in 1944, submitted by Selkirk and Galashiels town councils for the erection of temporary housing.  Twenty-one applications were determined in 1945, and eighty in 1946.  By 1950, the number of applications, all dealt with by the Planning Committee, had risen to 125.

The 1943 Act also required planning authorities to initiate a survey of their area (of the use of land, the use and condition of buildings, the provision of services such as water and drainage, gas and electricity, school provision and bus routes).  The Edinburgh Architectural Association had already undertaken a preliminary survey of Galashiels Burgh in 1943 for the Department of Health, which was responsible for town and country planning in Scotland at Government level.  In accordance with the requirements of the 1943 Act, the committee asked the burgh surveyor of Selkirk to undertake a comprehensive survey of Selkirk and John C. Hall, architect of Galashiels, was appointed to undertake the survey of the landward area.  Surveys of Galashiels, Selkirk and the main villages in the county, Ashkirk, Clovenfords, Ettrickbridge End and Yarrowfeus were completed by the end of 1944 and interim planning schemes were prepared in draft.

In Galashiels, the Department of Health had earmarked almost 20 acres of land at Gala Policies (Forest Gardens and Balmoral Avenue) for local authority development.  Local builders, John G & George A Hunter, built private houses at Glenfield and along the north side of Melrose Road at Wester Langlee.  In Selkirk, the town council submitted proposals for new housing at Raeburn Meadow and Philiphaugh (Bannerfield).  Although the County Agricultural Committee objected to the loss of agricultural land at Philiphaugh because of the effect on Philiphaugh Farm (a dairy farm), the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (DAFS) had no objections and consent was granted.

Following the enactment of the Town and County Planning (Scotland Act 1947, there were discussions amongst Roxburgh, Selkirkshire and Berwickshire County Councils regarding the establishment of a joint advisory committee and the appointment of a planning officer to prepare one development plan for the three counties.  However, after some discussion, it was decided that each county council should appoint its own planning officer to prepare a development plan for each authority.  John C. Hall, who acted as County Architect, was appointed County Planning Officer for Selkirkshire County Council in September 1948 and given authority to employ additional staff to carry out the statutory duties required by the new Act.  All planning applications were submitted to the County Clerk, W T Dundas and considered by the Planning Committee, John C Hall and subsequently his son, John B Hall, providing planning advice.  George Ovens, who would later move to Roxburgh County Council and eventually become its Depute County Planning Officer, and Harold Hudson, were set to work on the preparation of the first development plan for Selkirkshire.

By October 1950 a draft development plan had been produced for discussion with Galashiels and Selkirk Town Councils.  Trunk road proposals were a significant issue, particularly in relation to the A7.  The Ministry of Transport had proposed a by-pass for Selkirk prior to the Second World War and, following the publication of the Regional Plan for Central and South-East Scotland in 1946, consulted both Roxburgh County Council and Selkirkshire County Council on a new trunk road linking the A68 and the A7 between Newtown St. Boswells and Galashiels involving a by-pass to Melrose and a new bridge over the River Tweed in the vicinity of Kingsknowes.  Whilst Selkirkshire County Council and Selkirk Town Council welcomed a by-pass for Selkirk, both the County Council and Galashiels Town Council had concerns over the impact on Galashiels of the proposed new link between the A68 and the A7.  Both the County Council and Galashiels Town Council favoured a by-pass to the west of the burgh involving a new road from the vicinity of the Tweed Bridge, on the A7 south of Galashiels, via Hollybush and Mossilee to cross the Gala Water and railway line at Wood Street and connect with the A7 at Torwoodlee.  The Ministry of Transport did not favour this expensive solution and also pointed out that such a route would not serve the traffic arriving at Kingsknowes from the A68 along the new link road.  Much to the consternation of the County Council and the Town Council, the Ministry of Transport proposed a new road through the centre of Galashiels from Abbotsford Road through Bank Street Gardens and the rear of High Street (involving the demolition of the old town hall) and Island Street, to connect with Wood Street and thence across the Gala Water to Torwoodlee.  Meetings between the County Council, the Ministry of Transport and the Department of Health ensued throughout 1950 and 1951.

The County Development Plan for Selkirkshire, one of the first to be produced in Scotland, was submitted to the Secretary of State in March 1953.  It was based on retaining a stable population in the landward area with small increases in Galashiels and Selkirk; with a target 1973 county population of 22,169 compared with a 1951 population of 21,724.  Local authority housing in Galashiels was concentrated in the Balmoral area and at Wester Langlee (to include a new school).  Sites for private housing were allocated at Ladhope and off Abbotsford Road at Binniemyre, Sunningdale and Brunswickhill.  In Selkirk, local authority housing was concentrated at Bannerfield.  In Galashiels, the plan included a proposed new bus station in the station yard to replace the use of the Market Place.  As regards the route of the A7, the county council wished to include a by-pass to the west of Galashiels, which would aid the development of the Hollybush area in the longer term, but the Ministry of Transport prevailed and the development plan included a new road through the centre of Galashiels.  The Secretary of State approved the development plan in April 1955, subject to the area at Sunningdale only being identified for longer term development after construction of the new link road.

On submission of the development plan to the Secretary of State, Harold Hudson sought pastures new and left the employ of John C Hall.  George Ovens also left and moved to Roxburgh County Council, to be replaced by Duncan Laing, who took up the position of Junior Planning Assistant.  However, it seems that during the 1950s it was impossible to attract suitably qualified planners to the Scottish Borders (Selkirk County Council was not alone, for Roxburgh County Council experienced the same difficulties) and there were no suitable candidates to fill the post vacated by Harold Hudson.  Therefore, throughout the mid-1950s there was only one dedicated member of staff, Duncan Laing, to support the County Planning Officer in providing advice on planning applications.  Work had also fallen behind on the Quinquennial Review of the Development Plan, a requirement of the 1948 Planning Act, so when Duncan Laing left in September 1957 and his position could not be filled, John C Hall was given authority to employ other staff within his practice on planning work.  Consequently, two people who would become well-known Border characters would emerge onto the planning scene; Frank Entwistle, an architectural technician within John C Hall’s practice, who took over responsibility for the review of the development plan, and John Gray, who had been taken on as an apprentice draughtsman in June 1956.  Frank Entwistle’s involvement in planning in Selkirkshire would continue until the re-organisation of local government in 1975, after which he would establish his own architectural practice.  John Gray would become an established figure in planning in the Borders and would subsequently pursue a career with the Borders Regional Council after 1975, eventually becoming a prime mover in the economic development of the region.

Throughout the late 1950s, work continued on the Quinquennial Review of the Development Plan against the background of a continually falling rural population, largely due to the mechanisation of agriculture.  In the period 1951 to 1961, the population of the county declined by some 700 persons.  Much emphasis was placed on the modernisation and expansion of existing industries and the encouragement of new industries to Galashiels and Selkirk.  Overspill agreements were negotiated with Glasgow Corporation to attract additional workers to meet the needs, particularly for female workers, of the traditional tweed and knitwear industries.  Large areas in Galashiels and Selkirk were identified for local authority housing.  Proposals were set out for the extension northwards of the Riverside Industrial Area in Selkirk along Dunsdale Road with a new junction on the A7 north of the Toll.  Outline plans were drawn up for the redevelopment of Selkirk town centre (the area bounded by Market Place, Kirk Wynd, Back Row and Tower Street), involving the demolition of some 150 unfit houses.  The county council continued to push for a by-pass to Galashiels but the Scottish Home and Health Department would not agree to the inclusion of a by-pass in the Quinquennial Review.

The next post will examine the Quinquennial Review, submitted to the Secretary of State in May 1964 and approved in January 1968, in some detail and will also look at the impact on planning in Selkirkshire of the Government’s White Paper on the Scottish Economy 1965-1970 and the subsequent Central Borders Study: A Plan for Expansion, published in 1968.

 

The Planning (Scotland) Bill 2017

The Planning (Scotland) Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 4 December 2017 sets out the Scottish Government’s proposals for changes to the overall framework under which planning operates.  The Bill seeks to re-focus the planning system on enhancing community engagement and reducing and simplifying procedures and processes.  Key proposals include:

  • Abolition of strategic development plans, with the national planning framework forming part of the development plan;
  • Abolition of statutory supplementary planning guidance;
  • Local development plans to be in place for a period of 10 years rather than 5 years, with the right to amend them during that time;
  • Scottish Planning Policy to be incorporated into the national planning framework, to be reviewed every 10 years; and
  • Creation of Local Place Plans produced by a community body.

The Scottish Government proposes that Strategic Development Plans should be replaced by more proactive regional working partnerships.  However, there is little detail or clarity on how these regional working partnerships would operate and how tensions at the regional/strategic planning level would be resolved within the proposed enhanced National Planning Framework.

The Bill proposes changes to local development plans, suggesting that the plan period should be extended to ten years instead of the present five years; that the process for preparing local development plans should be shortened by the removal of the need for a Main Issues Report (to be replaced by a draft plan); and that supplementary planning guidance should be dispensed with.  The object of these and other changes is to provide stronger local development plans that deliver development.

Local Place Plans (LPPs) are one of the Scottish Government’s key proposals aimed at improving public engagement and involvement in the planning system.  The Government hopes that LPPs will provide an avenue for communities to feed into the development plan system.  However, there are concerns as to how LPPs interact with the local development plan and clear guidance will be needed on the form and content of LPPs, and how LPPs should be developed and submitted to the planning authority.  Interesting times ahead!

To improve the development management process, the Bill proposes changes to the pre-application process for major and local developments and changes to the scheme of delegation which are likely to extend the scope of appeals that would be made to the local review body rather than to Scottish Ministers.  Some may welcome these changes, others may be concerned at the prospect of more decisions on major developments being taken locally.

To improve the performance of planning authorities, the Bill proposes that councillors involved in planning decisions will be required to undertake training on planning matters and councillors that have not completed such training would be barred from undertaking such duties.  It may be that councillors already undertake some form of informal training but it would be difficult to argue against the need for proper training for those who are charged with the responsibility of discharging planning decisions.  In the Scottish Borders, the full council is responsible for the approval of the local development plan so it could, perhaps, be argued that the whole council should undertake such training, not just the members of the planning committee and the local review body.  Watch this space.

The Bill does not include any reference to third party appeals.  There has been a long-running campaign for the introduction of a limited third party right of appeal where those who have objected to a proposal that has been granted planning permission can request a review of the decision.  Scottish Ministers are opposed to the creation of a third party right of appeal.  The Scottish Government’s view is that:

“It is far more appropriate and more constructive to have stronger early engagement, involving people in the shaping of their areas, as provided for through the changes to development planning, the introduction of LPPs and more effective pre-application consultation. A third party right of appeal would increase delay and uncertainty through to the end of the planning process, running counter to the whole thrust of the Bill and wider review of planning in streamlining and front-loading the system”

The Bill is presently passing through Parliament.  The Bill completed Stage 1 on 29 May 2018 and consideration of the Bill at Stage 2 is scheduled to commence on 12 September 2018.  It will be next year (2019) before we have a better idea of what the Planning (Scotland) Act might look like.

 

 

Proposed Strategic Development Plan 2017 (SESplan)

The development plan currently consists of the Scottish Borders Local Development Plan (LDP), adopted in May 2016 and the Strategic Development Plan produced by SESplan, a partnership of six local authorities in the south east of Scotland; Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian, Fife, Scottish Borders and West Lothian, which was approved by Scottish Ministers in June 2013.  SESplan’s second Proposed Strategic Development Plan was submitted to Scottish Ministers in June 2017.

 The Proposed Strategic Development Plan sets out an ambitious vision to guide the growth of the South East Scotland region over the next twenty years.  For the next 12 years (2018-2030), SESplan proposes that most growth will be largely met by land already identified in existing and proposed local development plans.  In the Scottish Borders, existing towns provide the focus for retail, commercial and strategic employment opportunities.  The potential future expansion of the Borders Rail line to Hawick and beyond could provide further opportunities for growth and regeneration in the Central Borders and Hawick.  On the East Coast Main Line, a new station at Reston would provide settlements in Berwickshire with easier access to employment and education opportunities in Edinburgh and stimulate tourism in the area.  Dualling of the A1 and improvements of the A68 and A7 would improve journey times to and from England.  SESPlan proposes a Green Network Priority Area connecting settlements in the Central Borders with Innerleithen and Peebles utilising former railway lines, offering considerable potential for walking and cycling between town centres and tourism attractions such as Abbotsford, Dryburgh Abbey, Traquair House and Glentress Mountain Biking Centre.

In relation to housing supply, the Proposed Strategic Development Plan indicates that there is sufficient housing land supply to meet housing land requirement for the 2018-2030 period in the Scottish Borders based on the land supply set out in the Local Development Plan.  However, a step change in the level of house building is needed if housing supply targets are to be achieved and this may warrant the permitting of proposals for additional housing on sites not identified in the local development plan, subject to it being consistent with the spatial strategy of the development plan and a number of other criteria.  Additional housing land allocations are likely to be required to meet the housing land requirement for the period 2030-2038.  These will need to be made in new Local Development Plans.

The Examination of the Proposed Strategic Development Plan, which commenced in August 2017, has been completed by Reporters appointed by Scottish Ministers and their report was submitted to Scottish Ministers on 20 July 2018.  The Reporters considered twenty-five unresolved issues and have recommended a number of modifications to the Plan.

In relation to the spatial strategy, the Reporters have recommended that the location of any additional sites to those identified in local development plans, that require to be identified for development in the period 2018-2030, should be in and around Edinburgh and along transport corridors.  In relation to Key Areas of Change in the Scottish Borders, the Reporters have recommended that the Strategic Development Plan should give more emphasis to the fact that major flood schemes in Selkirk, Hawick and Galashiels will provide opportunities for growth and regeneration in the Central Borders.

In relation to housing targets, the Reporters have increased the housing supply target for the Scottish Borders for the period 2018-2030 from 4,176 homes to 5,202 homes and the housing land requirement from 4,594 to 5,760 homes.  In relation to the five year effective housing land supply, where a shortfall is identified, sites for greenfield housing development not allocated in local development plans may be granted planning permission subject the development being consistent with the spatial strategy of the development plan and a number of other criteria.

It is now for Scottish Ministers to consider the report and decide whether or not to approve the plan, with or without modifications.

It should be born in mind, however, that future changes in planning legislation may make Strategic Development Plans redundant.  The Planning (Scotland) Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 4 December 2017 sets out the Scottish Government’s proposals for changes to the overall framework under which planning operates.  The Scottish Government proposes that Strategic Development Plans should be removed from the system to be replaced by more proactive regional working partnerships.  So, the Proposed Strategic Development Plan is likely to be the last.  For more information about the Government’s proposals for the planning system, see the ‘Planning (Scotland) Bill 2017’ post.

 

Development Management: July 2018 Update

During July 2018, the Scottish Borders Council received 126 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees.  Two Proposal of Application Notices for major developments in the region were submitted in July:

A Proposal of Application Notice has been submitted for residential development on land south of Craignethan, Newtown St. Boswells (the site at the junction of Eildon Road and Sprouston Road) (SBC Ref: 18/00886/PAN).  The site is identified for residential development in the adopted local development plan with an indicative capacity of 68 houses.  A public consultation event is planned for the 4 September 2018 in the Newtown Community Wing, to be held between 11.00am and 6.30pm.  Details should appear in the Southern Reporter on 23 August 2018.

A Proposal of Application Notice has been submitted for a development by Berwickshire Housing Association of 49 mixed tenure dwellinghouses on land off Summerhill Park, Beanburn, Ayton (SBC Ref: 18/00968/PAN).  A previous public consultation event on a proposed development on this site took place in June 2017.  A further public consultation event, including an exhibition of the design proposals, is planned for the week commencing 17 September 2018 in Ayton Primary School.  The PAN provides no details of the specific date or time for the public consultation event but details should be provided within a press advertisement in the Berwickshire News at least seven days before the planned public event.

A public exhibition on the proposed development of holiday lodges, hotel and golf driving range at the Roxburghe Golf Course, submitted on 20 June (SBC Ref: 18/00799/PAN), is to be held at Heiton Village Hall on 7 August 2018 from 4.00pm to 7.30pm.

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 July 2018, the council decided 113 applications, only two of which were refused by the Chief Planning Officer, under delegated powers.  An application for the renewal of planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land near Linthill Cottages, Linthill, Melrose (SBC Ref: 18/00644/PPP) was refused on 23 July.  Although planning permission had previously been granted in July 2015 for a dwellinghouse on the site, this had expired.  Planning policy on housing in the countryside has changed since 2015 as a result of the adoption of the Scottish Borders Council Local Development Plan 2016 (LDP).  The policy on replacement dwellings in the countryside has been significantly revised and the Chief Planning Officer considered that the proposal is now contrary to the strict requirements of policy HD2 of the LDP.  It will be interesting to see if this decision is challenged through the Local Review Body and, if so, whether the LRB takes the same view on the non-conformity of the proposal with the LDP.

An application for the change of use of part of Unit 8 at Tweedside Park, Tweedbank (the former Plexus Facility) to form a gymnasium, children’s soft play area and associated café (SBC Ref: 18/00635/FUL) was refused planning permission on 26 July on the grounds that the proposed uses are not appropriate to a building located within a strategic business park safeguarded for uses falling within Business Classes 4-6.  It will be interesting to see if this decision is also challenged by referral to the Local Review Body.

At its meeting on 16 July, the Council’s Local Review Body (LRB) decided to reverse the Chief Planning Officer’s decision to refuse planning permission for the change of use and alteration of agricultural buildings to form eleven dwellinghouses at Hutton Castle Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire and granted planning permission subject to 12 conditions, informatives and a legal agreement in respect of the payment of a financial contribution towards education facilities and affordable housing in the locality (SBC Ref: 18/00013/RREF & 16/01371/FUL).  The LRB upheld the Chief Planning Officer’s decisions to refuse planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land south west of 1 Hill Terrace, Stow (SBC Ref: 18/00014/RREF & 17/01734/PPP) and for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land north west of Doonbye, Smith’s Road, Darnick (SBC Ref: 18/00015/RREF & 18/00287/FUL).

At its meeting on 16 July, the Planning and Building Standards Committee considered a report by the Chief Planning Officer on the relaxation of the town centre Core Activity Area Policy (Policy ED4 of the LDP), as it applies particularly to Galashiels and Hawick.  The committee agreed to certain changes in the practice of implementing this policy.  For more information on the implications of these changes, see the post on ‘Town Centre Policy: Amendments to practice for processing planning applications, July 2018’.

On the subject of wider planning issues, the Examination of the Proposed South East Scotland Strategic Development Plan, submitted to Scottish Ministers in June 2017, has been completed by Reporters appointed by Scottish Ministers and their report was submitted to Scottish Ministers on 20 July 2018.  The Reporters appointed to undertake the examination considered twenty-five unresolved issues and it is now for Scottish Ministers to consider the report and decide whether or not to approve the plan, with or without modifications.  For more information on the implications for the Scottish Borders, see my post on ‘Proposed Strategic Development Plan 2017’.

During July, the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) received an appeal against the imposition of two conditions to a planning permission, granted by the council on 26 March 2018, for the erection of two wind turbines on land at No. 6 Lamberton Holdings in Berwickshire.  The conditions relate to the requirement to remove the turbines within 25 years.

Five appeals remain to be determined against the refusal of planning permission: (1) for the construction of a wind farm comprising 12 turbines at Pines Burn, south west of Hobkirk (SBC Ref: 17/00010/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2069); (2) for the erection of 7 wind turbines on land north-west of Gilston Farm, near Heriot (SBC Ref: 17/00226/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2068); (3) for the erection of a poultry building at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2065); (4) for the erection of a poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2062); and (5) a residential development of 38 dwellings at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2059).

Scottish Ministers have called-in for determination the application by Eildon Housing Association for residential development at Huddersfield Street, Galashiels in view of the proposed development’s possible significant level of flood risk (SBC Ref: 17/00695/FUL) (DPEA Ref: NA-SBD-054).  A hearing session has been arranged, to be held on Wednesday 15 August at 10.00am in the Waverley Suite at the Transport Interchange, Galashiels.

The public inquiry to be held in relation to the refusal of planning permission for the erection of 7 wind turbines on land north-west of Gilston Farm, near Heriot (SBC Ref: 17/00226/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2068), which was to commence at 10.00am on 24 July 2018 in the Novotel Hotel, Edinburgh Park (near the Gyle), has been cancelled as un-necessary following agreement on the suspensive conditions required in relation to Edinburgh Airport radar.

Three wind farm applications submitted to the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the 1989 Act, to which the Scottish Borders Council has objected, remain outstanding: (1) the application for a 12 turbine extension to the existing Fallago Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills; (2) the application to extend the operational life of the existing Fallago Rig wind farm to coincide with that of the extension (if approved) (DPEA case references WIN-140-5 & WIN-140-6); and (3) an application for the erection of 15 wind turbines on land at Birneyknowe, near Bonchester Bridge, south-east of Hawick (DPEA case reference WIN-140-7).  The Reporter’s reports in relation to the two Fallago Rig applications have been submitted to Scottish Ministers and their decision is awaited.  In relation to the Birneyknowe application, the Reporter hopes to be in a position to submit the report to Scottish Ministers in August.

 

Town Centre Policy: Amendments to current practice for processing planning applications, July 2018

The Scottish Borders Local Development Plan 2016 (LDP) supports a wide range of uses appropriate to town centres in Duns, Eyemouth, Galashiels, Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose, Peebles and Selkirk.  However, in order to protect the vitality and viability of the ‘Core Activity Areas’ of these town centres, policy ED4 of the LDP restricts acceptable uses in these areas to Class 1 (shops) and Class 3 (food and drink establishments) of the Use Classes Order.  Proposals for uses within Class 2 (financial, professional and other services) of the Use Classes Order are only acceptable where they contribute positively to the core retail activity of the area and are assessed against the following criteria:

  • How the proposed use would contribute to joint shopping trips;
  • Footfall contribution;
  • Current vacancy and footfall rates;
  • Longevity of vacancy;
  • Marketing history of premises; and
  • Ability to retain shop frontage.

Policy ED4 also indicates that decision making on what uses are acceptable will be guided by research or studies on vitality and viability by the council or developers.

Only a relatively small part of the region’s town centres are identified as ‘Core Activity Areas’ (CAA).  For instance, in Galashiels, the CAA is limited to the frontages of Bank Street (from Bank Street Brae to Cornmill Square), the west side of Market Street between Cornmill Square and Overhaugh Street, both sides of Channel Street between Park Street and the Market Square, and the Douglas Bridge development.  Channel Street west of Park Street, the whole of High Street and Island Street, lie outwith the Galashiels CAA and there are no such restrictions on proposed uses in these streets.  In Hawick, only the frontages of High Street between Cross Wynd and Baker Street are identified within the CAA.  The High Street south of Cross Wynd, Bourtree Place, North Bridge Street, the Sandbed, Tower Knowe/Silver Street, Howegate and Commercial Road all lie outwith the Hawick CAA and there are no such restrictions on proposed uses in these streets.

At present, the CAA policy allows uses such as shops, hairdressers, travel agents, dry cleaners and laundrettes, restaurants, cafes, snack bars, public houses and even car sales on the identified frontages.  Uses such as betting offices, beauticians, nail salons, tattooists, estate agents, photographic studios, dog groomers, vets, dental surgeries, solicitors, accountants, financial/mortgage advisors and other professional services are only acceptable where they contribute positively to the core retail activity of the area.  Some of these uses do exist in the core activity areas of the Border towns, however, for they were in existence before the policy was first devised in the 1970s and 1980s, and some of these uses have been allowed where the council considered that the proposal would contribute positively to the core retail activity of the area.  For instance, in April, 2018, the Local Review Body reversed the decision of the Chief Planning Officer to refuse planning permission for a change of use from retail to dog grooming practice of 38 Bank Street, Galashiels, which is within the CAA, and granted planning permission on the grounds that the proposed use would contribute positively to the core retail activity of the area.  Earlier this month, planning permission was granted for a change of use from retail to dog grooming salon at 9A Bank Street, Galashiels which, although located on Bank Street, lies outwith the Galashiels CAA.  On the other hand, planning permission was refused in May 2018 for the change of use of a retail unit to a tattoo studio at 52 Bank Street, Galashiels, within the CAA.  The change of use of retail units at Douglas Bridge to a Job Centre was approved in November 2017 on appeal by a Scottish Government Reporter, who considered that the proposed use, although not as desirable as a retail use, would make a positive contribution to the core retail function of the CAA.

In Hawick, planning permission was granted in August 2017 for the change of use of 52 High Street, which is within the Hawick CAA, from retail to coffee shop.  Planning permission was granted in April 2018 for the change of use of 53 High Street, Hawick, which is also within the Hawick CAA, from retail to form a restaurant with takeaway.  Outwith the CAA, planning permission was granted in January 2017 for the change of use of 34 North Bridge Street from office to dog grooming parlour.  No planning applications for such uses in the Hawick CAA have been refused in recent years.

There is, quite clearly, a measure of flexibility in the present policy that enables the council to allow a variety of non-retail uses within Core Activity Areas, each proposal being considered on its merits against the criteria set out in policy ED4 of the LDP.  However, following a study by the Planning Department to examine ways to revitalise and re-invigorate the town centres of Galashiels and Hawick, the Planning and Building Standards Committee at its meeting on 16 July 2018 agreed to the removal of the restrictions imposed by the CAA designation in Hawick and to a relaxation in the way CAA policy is implemented in Galashiels for a trial period of one year.  It is also proposed that, within Galashiels town centre, the requirement for developer contributions to affordable housing and education provision would be temporarily removed for one year.  Contributions to the Borders Railway must remain as they are a statutory requirement.  There would, however, be a general presumption in Hawick and Galashiels against anti-social uses within these town centres which may have detrimental impacts on the amenity of residential property and other uses.

To be more specific, proposals in the Hawick CAA will simply be tested against LDP policy ED3, which allows a mix of uses in town centres.  Proposed changes of use from retail to a range of financial and professional office uses and other service uses, such as a betting office, beauticians, dog groomers and tattooists will not need to be assessed against the criteria in policy ED4, such as footfall contribution and longevity of vacancy.  In Galashiels CAA, these proposed changes of use will continue to be assessed against the criteria in policy ED4.  Potential uses identified in the report prepared by the Planning Department that could, however, be considered more favourably are: betting office, beautician, nail salon, estate agent, dog groomers and tattooists.  The report also sets out further guidance in relation to two of the criteria listed in policy ED4; the judging of applications in terms of the longevity of vacancy and the marketing history of the premises, which should be taken into account when assessing proposals within the Core Activity Areas of Galashiels and the other identified towns in the Borders.  The report also indicates that in assessing the contribution that a proposed use makes to the Core Activity Area, the economic benefits of the proposal, the footfall it is likely to generate and how active the proposed frontage is, would be taken into account.

These relaxations have been welcomed but only time will tell whether the changes proposed will have any significant effect on the vibrancy and vitality of Galashiels and Hawick town centres.  It will be interesting to see how many proposals for the change of use of retail premises to other uses come forward in the Galashiels and Hawick Core Activity Areas within the next year and whether there is any significant change in footfall or a reduction in vacancy rates as a result.  I look forward to seeing the report back at the end of the trial period.

 

Development Management: June 2018 update

During June 2018, the Scottish Borders Council received 123 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees.  The following applications are of particular interest:

  • Change of use of the upper ground floor of the Courthouse Business Centre, High Street, Peebles from office/retail use to hostel accommodation (SBC Ref: 18/00815/FUL);
  • Erection of a further 38 dwellinghouses at Thirlestane Drive, Lauder incorporating terraced, semi-detached and detached houses, 25% of which would be affordable housing likely to be social rent (SBC Ref: 18/00486/FUL);
  • Proposed retail and café development at Hergés on the Loch, Tweedbank (SBC Ref: 18/00776/PPP);
  • A retrospective application for the change of use of former garage and car showroom (the Redburn Garage on Peebles Road, Galashiels) to multiple use, including furniture workshop and showroom, caravan repairs, car valeting, catering unit, retail unit and sale of garden and outdoor equipment (SBC Ref: 18/00723/FUL).

In relation to the Proposal of Application Notice for the change of use of land to form a mobile luxury lodge holiday retreat on land west of Willowdean House, Foulden (SBC Ref: 18/00674/PAN), referred to in the May update, it is understood that a public exhibition was held in Foulden Village Hall on 29 June.  However, due to inadequate publicity in the local press, a further public event is to be held on 23 July 2018 and will be open to members of the public from 9.00am to 7.30pm.  The event will be attended by the applicant and/or the agent for the full period of the event to take questions from the public.

The much anticipated public event in relation to the Proposal of Application Notice for a major tourist development of 500 static caravans, 50 touring caravans and associated facilities on land at Thirlestane Castle, Lauder (SBC Ref: 17/01669/PAN), was held on 5 June 2018.  It will be interesting to see the results of this pre-application exercise when a planning application is submitted.

A Proposal of Application Notice has been submitted for a development by Eildon Housing Association of 69 dwellinghouses at Coopersknowe, Galashiels (SBC Ref: 18/00727/PAN).  A public exhibition is planned for 11 July 2018 at Langlee Community Centre, Galashiels between 3.30pm and 7.30pm.

A Proposal of Application Notice for the development of holiday lodges, hotel and golf driving range at the Roxburghe Golf Course was submitted on 20 June 2018 (SBC Ref: 18/00799/PAN).  A public exhibition on the proposed development is to be held at Heiton Village Hall on 7 August 2018 from 4.00pm to 7.30pm.

A Screening Opinion Request to determine whether an Environmental Impact Assessment is required in terms of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations 2017 has been submitted for a large scale mixed use development, comprising retail, office, business/light industrial, hotel, residential and non-residential institution, housing and leisure use, together with a new access from the A68 and car parking, on the Auction Mart site at Newtown St. Boswells (SBC Ref: 18/00746/SCR).  A Proposal of Application Notice for the development was submitted on 9 February (SBC Ref: 18/00144/PAN) and a public consultation event was held in the Canteen at the Auction Mart on 26 March 2018 as part of the pre-application consultation process.

The council has been consulted on an application to erect a further 11 turbines at the Crystal Rigg Wind Farm, near Cranshaws in the Lammermuir Hills, which has been submitted to Scottish Ministers under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 (SBC Ref: 18/00768/S36).  A Pre-application consultation on the proposed extension was undertaken in the early part of this year and a public event was held in Cranshaws Village Hall in February 2018.

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 2018, the council decided 106 applications, only one of which was refused planning permission; for the erection of a dwellinghouse on the site of an agricultural building at Deuchar Mill in the Yarrow Valley (SBC Ref: 18/00355/PPP).  At its meeting on 4 June, the Planning and Building Standards Committee granted planning permissions for the erection of two dwellinghouses on land west of Peelgait, Selkirk (SBC Ref: 17/00923/PPP) and for the erection of a single dwellinghouse at The Gables, Smiths Road, Darnick (SBC Ref: 18/00396/PPP).  At its meeting on 25 June, the Committee granted planning permission for the erection of seven boarding kennels at West Greenfields, near Reston in Berwickshire, subject to a noise mitigation plan to protect the amenity of nearby houses, and a waste management plan for the storage and disposal of wastes generated by the development (SBC Ref: 18/00173/FUL).  At its meeting on 18 June, the Council’s Local Review Body (LRB) decided to reverse the Chief Planning Officer’s decision to refuse planning permission for the part change of use of a paddock to form a new access and drive to Southbank, Bowden and the erection of a summerhouse and tennis court (SBC Ref: 17/01362/FUL).

During June, the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) allowed the appeal against the refusal, by the council, of planning permission for the erection of four dwellinghouses at Elders Yard, Newtown St. Boswells and granted planning permission in principle subject to eighteen conditions (SBC Ref: 17/01342/PPP) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2070).  The Reporter concluded that the proposed development did accord, overall, with the relevant provisions of the local development plan and that there were no other material considerations that would justify refusing to grant planning permission in principle.

Five appeals remain to be determined against the refusal of planning permission: (1) for the construction of a wind farm comprising 12 turbines at Pines Burn, south west of Hobkirk (SBC Ref: 17/00010/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2069); (2) for the erection of 7 wind turbines on land north-west of Gilston Farm, near Heriot (SBC Ref: 17/00226/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2068); (3) for the erection of a poultry building at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2065); (4) for the erection of a poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2062); and (5) a residential development of 38 dwellings at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2059).

In relation to the appeal against the refusal of planning permission for residential development at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw, the appointed Reporter has intimated that she is minded to grant planning permission subject to a legal agreement in respect of a contribution to affordable housing.  The Reporter’s decision has been deferred for a period of 12 weeks pending the production of a completed planning agreement within that time.

The accompanied site inspection in connection with the appeal against the refusal of planning permission for the construction of a wind farm comprising 12 turbines at Pines Burn, south west of Hobkirk (SBC Ref: 17/00010/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2069), took place on 14 June.

The public inquiry to be held in relation to the refusal of planning permission for the erection of 7 wind turbines on land north-west of Gilston Farm, near Heriot (SBC Ref: 17/00226/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2068), is to commence at 10.00am on 24 July 2018 in the Novotel Hotel, Edinburgh Park (near the Gyle) and is expected to run for 2 days.  Members of the public are welcome to attend.  The public inquiry will be broadcast live to the internet as part of the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division’s webcasting service.

Three wind farm applications submitted to the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the 1989 Act, to which the Scottish Borders Council has objected, remain outstanding: (1) the application for a 12 turbine extension to the existing Fallago Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills; (2) the application to extend the operational life of the existing Fallago Rig wind farm to coincide with that of the extension (if approved) (DPEA case references WIN-140-5 & WIN-140-6); and (3) an application for the erection of 15 wind turbines on land at Birneyknowe, near Bonchester Bridge, south-east of Hawick (DPEA case reference WIN-140-7).