Development Management: October update

During October 2017, the council received 128 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees.

Of particular interest to residents of Chirnside in Berwickshire is a Proposal of Application Notice by Springfield Properties for a proposed residential development of 57 affordable dwellings on land west of Borlaroc, Main Street, East End, Chirnside, received by the council on 2 October 2017 (SBC Ref: 17/01367/PAN) [Springfield Properties have also submitted a Proposal of Application Notice for a similar development at Langtongate in Duns (see September update)].  It is proposed to hold a one day public exhibition/drop in event of the proposals in the Chirnside Community Centre on Monday 13 November from early afternoon to early evening.  If you want to register your interest and be kept informed of the proposal, you should make the effort and attend.

An exciting prospect for Eyemouth, is the proposal by Eyemouth Harbour Trust for a helicopter access facility comprising two helipads, hanger, office and welfare building, fuel storage area and car parking on the eastern headland at Gunsgreenhill (SBC Ref: 17/01451/FUL).  The proposed development would provide an opportunity for Eyemouth Harbour to provide facilities for Scotland’s emerging offshore renewable energy industry.  Although discussions have been held with an offshore wind developer, there is no identified end user at the present time and the proposal is highly speculative.  The proposed plans, therefore, illustrate the potential maximum extent of the development.

Another proposal, which will no doubt be of great interest to residents of Jedburgh, is a planning application for the demolition of the existing Parkside Primary School and its replacement by an Intergenerational Community Campus, incorporating nursery, primary and secondary educational provision for the Jedburgh area (SBC Ref: 17/01363/FUL).  The site has been considered for residential development in the past but is unallocated in the adopted Local Development Plan 2016.  The proposal was the subject of extensive consultation earlier this year.  Nevertheless, this planning application for a major development on the green area between Hartrigge Crescent and Mainetti’s Factory is likely to produce a great deal of comment.

During October 2017, the council decided some 107 applications, only ten of which were refused.  On the 2 October, after over an hour’s deliberation, the Planning and Building Standards Committee refused planning permission for the erection of 7 wind turbines on land north-west of Gilston Farm, near Heriot (SBC Ref: 17/00226/FUL).  Although there were strong representations from the local community in relation to the noise effects on nearby residential properties, the proposed wind farm was refused planning permission on the grounds of landscape and visual impact and its potential to disrupt radar operations at Edinburgh Airport.  Will there be another wind farm appeal for the council to contend with?

At the same meeting, planning permission was refused contrary to the recommendation of the Chief Planning Officer, by five votes to four, for the erection of a second poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (SBC Ref: 16/01377/FUL).  The Committee considered that the proposed poultry building would have an unacceptable adverse impact on the amenity and character of the surrounding area, a National Scenic Area.  The applicant has wasted no time in submitting an appeal to the Scottish Ministers.  It will be for a Reporter from the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals to decide the appeal.

A third planning application refused at the meeting on 2 October related to proposed residential development on land to the east of Edinburgh Road, Peebles (SBC Ref: 17/00015/FUL).  This site was considered and discounted during the Local Development Plan process and was rejected by the Scottish Government Reporter who undertook the LDP Examination.  It was also discounted from inclusion in the subsequent Supplementary Guidance on Housing.

There was success at the meeting on 2 October, however, for the application to erect a dwellinghouse on land south and east of the Old School and Old School House at Blainslie, south of Lauder (SBC Ref: 17/01055/PPP).  Although the Chief Planning Officer considered the proposal to be contrary to housing in the countryside policy, the Planning and Building Standards Committee decided, on a vote of 6 votes to 3 votes, to grant planning permission in principle subject to nine conditions on the grounds that the new dwelling together with the neighbouring two properties should be deemed to be part of Nether Blainslie Village for historic reasons and their proximity to Blainslie, notwithstanding that they are currently outwith the development boundary of the village.

The Local Review Body (LRB) met on 16 October to consider requests for the review of six decisions made by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers to refuse planning permission.  Three of these decisions related to developments at Kirkburn, Cardrona.  In all of these cases, the LRB decided that the officer’s decision to refuse the planning application be upheld.  The LRB also decided to uphold the officer’s decision to refuse planning permission for replacement windows and the installation of a chimney flue at 5 High Street, Innerleithen, but only after the holding of a hearing session, which the applicant did not attend, to consider in detail the technical aspects of the case.  The officer’s decision to refuse a planning application to allow the short term letting of ancillary accommodation at Jordonlaw Granary, Westruther was reversed subject to the provision of an additional parking space.  The review of the officer’s decision to refuse planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land at Rhymers Mill, Earlston was continued to allow a hearing to be held to consider flooding issues.

At the forthcoming meeting of the Planning and Building Standards Committee on 6 November, the re-application for the council’s own waste transfer station at Easter Langlee, Galashiels (SBC Ref: 17/01149/FUL) will be considered.  This proposal, previously refused planning permission in April 2017 on the grounds that the Langshaw Road (C77) is inadequate for the additional traffic likely to be generated, has resulted in a number of objections from local residents and from Galashiels Community Council.  However, the council’s Director of Assets and Infrastructure insists that all options have been investigated and Easter Langlee remains the best choice.  The waste transfer station will replace a long-standing infill operation.  The Chief Planning Officer considers that, although the additional measures proposed to improve the C77 do not address all the physical constraints of this road, the proposal is acceptable and is recommending planning permission be granted, subject to a number of conditions.  Whether the Committee agrees will be revealed on the 6th.

Another controversial application, for the construction of a windfarm comprising 12 turbines at Pines Burn, south west of Hobkirk, is to be considered by the Committee on 6 November (SBC Ref: 17/00010/FUL).  84 representations have been received in respect of this proposal, 54 objections and 30 in support of the proposal.  Southdean, Denholm, Hawick, Hobkirk and Upper Teviot and Borthwick Water Community Councils have objected and Newcastleton Community Council has raised concerns.  Nevertheless, the Chief Planning Officer is recommending that planning permission should be granted subject to wide-ranging conditions.  It will be seen whether the Planning and Building Standards Committee agree or decide to refuse planning permission.  Is there another wind farm appeal on the horizon?

In addition to the appeal in respect of the refusal of planning permission for the erection of a second poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2062), an appeal has now been submitted in respect of the refusal of planning permission, by the Planning and Building Standards Committee on 7 August, for the erection of storage and distribution buildings and an ancillary dwellinghouse on land outside Dolphinton (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2063).  Three other appeals remain outstanding: (1) against the council’s decision to refuse planning permission for a residential development of 38 dwellings at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire; (2) against the council’s decision to refuse planning permission for a proposed windfarm of eight turbines at Howpark, Grantshouse, also in Berwickshire; and (3) against the council’s decision to refuse planning permission for the relocation of the Job Centre in Galashiels to retail units on Douglas Bridge, Galashiels.  Details of the appeals can be found on the DPEA website (case references PPA-140-2059, PPA-140-2060 & PPA-140-2061).

Four applications for windfarms, submitted to the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the 1989 Electricity Act, to which the Scottish Borders Council has objected, remain to be determined.  An inquiry into the application for a 14 turbine wind farm at Whitelaw Brae, near Tweedsmuir in Peeblesshire was held in September 2016.  The report of the inquiry has been sent to Scottish Ministers for determination and a decision is awaited (see DPEA case reference WIN-140-4).  An inquiry into the application for a 12 turbine extension to the existing Fallago Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills and the application to extend the operational life of the existing wind farm to coincide with that of the extension (if approved) was held in August 2017.  The details of both cases can be found on the DPEA website (case references WIN-140-5 & WIN-140-6).  It is likely to be next year before a decision on these applications is forthcoming.  An application for the erection of 15 wind turbines on land at Birneyknowe, near Bonchester Bridge, south-east of Hawick, to which the Scottish Borders Council, the community council, many residents of the local community and others have objected is to be the subject of further examination.  A pre-examination meeting to discuss and agree the scope and programming of the subsequent inquiry was held in the Hawick Rugby Club Rooms on 25 October 2017.  The inquiry and hearing sessions have been provisionally programmed for March 2018 so this case has a long way to run (see DPEA case reference WIN-140-7).

Local Development Plan Update: October 2017

The drop-in and workshop sessions organised by Scottish Borders Council at eight locations for those people who are interested in the future development of the Scottish Borders have now finished.  The purpose of these sessions was to encourage the public to contribute to the Local Development Plan process.  Attendance levels have varied, as one might expect; the sessions at Peebles and Galashiels were very well attended, but others less so.  The issues raised have covered a wide range of topics, from the need for a new bridge over the Tweed in Peebles, a by-pass for Selkirk and the safeguarding of the Waverley Route all the way to the border with England to the need for more flexibility towards uses within the region’s town centres and the greater use of brownfield sites rather than greenfield sites for new housing.  There are differing opinions, of course, but the purpose of the workshop sessions was to allow these opinions to be expressed and debated.

Housing land allocation does not appear to be a major issue.  If the Scottish Ministers go along with the additional housing land allocations proposed by the council in the Housing Supplementary Guidance, approved by Scottish Borders Council in August (see post on Draft Housing Supplementary Guidance, 30 August 2017), it would seem that few additional sites will be required in the new Local Development Plan.  This assumes that none of the existing allocated sites are removed from the Plan but there are question marks over sites that have been in the Local Development Plan for some years yet remain undeveloped.  If such sites are removed, replacements are likely to be required.

Town centre regeneration is a major issue, particularly in towns such as Galashiels, Hawick and Selkirk, but there are no easy answers.  There are different views on the alternative use of empty shop premises on the prime retail frontages in these town centres, on the encouragement of a mix of uses within town centres, including more residential uses, and the provision and regulation of car parking.  The key would appear to be the generation of increased footfall but how to do this remains a thorny problem.

The pressure for more wind farms continues unabated and this will be a major issue for the new Local Development Plan; turbines up to 200 metres to tip height are now being considered by developers.  Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) requires Local Development Plans to set out a spatial framework for wind farms which identifies: (1) areas where wind farms will not be acceptable, (2) areas of significant protection where wind farms may be appropriate in some circumstances, and (3) areas where wind farms are likely to be acceptable, subject to detailed consideration against identified criteria.  Scottish Borders Council has prepared Draft Supplementary Guidance on Renewable Energy, which includes a wind energy spatial framework.  When finalised, this will require to be incorporated within the Local Development Plan.  Meanwhile, proposals for wind farms continue to cause a great deal of anxiety amongst a number of communities.

The next step in the local development plan process is for the Council to produce a Main Issues Report (MIR), which identifies the issues that require to be tackled by the Plan and identifies preferred and alternative solutions.  The issues to be considered include:

  • identification of housing land;
  • employment land provision;
  • regeneration of town centres;
  • protection of the built environment;
  • promotion of placemaking and good design;
  • road and transport improvements;
  • renewable energy and addressing climate change;
  • protection of greenspace;
  • protection of the natural environment; and
  • protection of the Borders landscape.

Public engagement is a key part of the development plan process.  If you don’t make your views known, they can’t be considered.  The closing date for the submission of views and comments at this stage of the process is 27 October 2017.  All the submissions made at the drop-in sessions and at the workshops, and those submitted in writing, including the questionnaires distributed at the drop-in sessions, will be considered in the preparation of the MIR.

It will be the spring of next year (2018) before the MIR is finalised by the Council.  A wide-ranging consultation programme will follow during the summer of 2018 before the preparation of the local development plan itself commences in the autumn of 2018 and it will be the autumn of 2019 before the proposed new local development plan (LDP2) is completed.  Once adopted, the new Local Development Plan (LDP2) will replace the current Local Development Plan, adopted on 12 May 2016.  The new plan, LDP2, will guide future development for the period 2012-2026.

Development Management: September update

During September 2017, the council received 122 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents.

At last an application has been submitted for the conversion of the old Post Office and the adjoining former “Poundstretcher” buildings in Channel Street, Galashiels to a Gallery to house the Great Tapestry of Scotland.  The existing “Poundstretcher” building would be demolished to enable the building of a gallery linked to the Category B Listed Post Office building where a reception, café and shop would be located (SBC Ref: 17/01300/FUL & 17/01301/FUL).  It will be interesting to see what the people of Galashiels think about the modernist approach to the design of the gallery.

Plans have also been received for the demolition of Langhaugh Mill, Currie Road, Galashiels and the erection of 39 flats for Eildon Housing Association (SBC Ref: 17/01284/FUL).

The re-application for the council’s own waste transfer station at Easter Langlee, Galashiels (SBC Ref. 17/01149/FUL), previously refused planning permission in April 2017 is causing quite a stir if press reports are to be believed.

Another proposal that is likely to cause some controversy is a re-application for a wind farm, this time comprising seven wind turbines, at Barrel Law, south west of Selkirk (SBC Ref: 17/01255/FUL).  An application for eight turbines on the site was refused planning permission in 2013 and an appeal to the Scottish Ministers (Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals) was dismissed in 2014.  According to the applicant, the proposed scheme for seven turbines addresses the reasons for refusal of the previous scheme.  We shall have to wait and see if the Scottish Borders Council agrees!

Requests for a scoping opinion under the Environmental Impact Assessment (Scotland) Regulations 2017 have been received by the council in relation to applications for Section 36 Consent under the Electricity Act 1989 for the erection of a further 11 turbines at Crystal Rig Wind Farm (Crystal Rig Phase IV) in the Lammermuir Hills (SBC Ref: 17/01350/SCO) and for the erection of 46 turbines on land at Cliffhope, near Saughtree Station, Newcastleton (SBC Ref: 17/01333/SCO).  The purpose of these requests is to seek the planning authority’s opinion as to the information that should be included within the Environmental Statements, which will accompany the subsequent applications for consent.  Watch this space!

An interesting planning application on the east coast is a proposal for the erection of twelve wigwams on land at Cove Village near Cockburnspath (SBC Ref: 17/01241/FUL).  The site is located within the Berwickshire Coast Special Landscape Area where landscape and visual impact as well as the positive tourism and economic impact will be important considerations.

After a long-running saga, dating back to May 2015, an application for a holiday complex, comprising 50 holiday lodges, restaurant and manager’s house, conversion of farm steading into 8 dwellinghouses and the erection of 6 dwellinghouses on land at Craik Farm Steading, Craik near Roberton, south-west of Hawick, was withdrawn on 11 August 2017.  However, this may not be the end of the story! (SBC Ref: 16/00475/FUL)

The submission of a pre-application request for a screening opinion under Regulation 8 of the Environmental Impact Assessment (Scotland) Regulations 2017 for the erection of new car showroom, including workshop, offices, petrol filling station, shop and café on the west side of the A68 north of the existing Toyota Garage at St. Boswells was submitted to the council on 1 August 2017 (SBC Ref: 17/01078/SCR).  On 24 August, the council issued its formal Screening Opinion that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not required in this instance.  Nevertheless, the council pointed out that there was considerable potential for environmental effects that may be unacceptable on the environment, local receptors, the site and/or the surrounding area and these effects would need to be properly established and assessed.  An exhibition on the proposed development was held at St. Boswells Village Hall on Tuesday 12 September (advertised in the Southern Reporter on 31 August 2017), where members of the project team answered questions regarding the proposals.  A planning application is expected in due course.

A Proposal of Application Notice for a proposed residential development of 58 affordable dwellings on land south of Langtongate, Duns (east of the new High School) was submitted on 29 September 2017.  It is proposed to hold a one day public exhibition of the proposals in the Swan Hotel, Duns on 4 November between 1pm and 7pm.  If you want to register your interest and be kept informed of the proposal, you should put the date in your diary.

During September 2017, the council decided some 111 applications, only a handful of which were refused.  On the 4 September, the Planning and Building Standards Committee refused planning permission, contrary to the recommendation of the Chief Planning Officer, for the change of use of two retail units on Douglas Bridge, Galashiels to offices for the relocation of the Job Centre from New Reiver House behind the High Street on the grounds that the proposal would result in the loss of prime retail floor space in a prominent location within Galashiels town centre (SBC Ref: 17/00765/FUL).  The applicant has wasted no time in submitting an appeal to the Scottish Ministers.  In the appeal, submitted on 20 September, the applicant submits that the proposed development is in accordance with the relevant local development plan policies and that other considerations, such as the fact that the proposal would bring vacant units back into active use, support the granting of planning permission.  It will be for a Reporter from the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals to decide.

The Local Review Body met on 18 September to consider three requests for a review of the decision made by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers to refuse planning permission for (1) the erection of dwellinghouse at Old Church, Lamberton in Berwickshire; (2) the erection of a dwellinghouse at Craigerne, Edderston Road, Peebles; and (3) the erection of a micro-meat processing unit on land at Hardiesmill Place, Gordon in Berwickshire.  In each case, the Local Review Body upheld the officer’s decision to refuse the planning application.

In addition to the recently submitted appeal in respect of the relocation of the Job Centre in Galashiels to retail units at Douglas Bridge, Galashiels, two other appeals remain outstanding: (1) against the council’s decision to refuse planning permission for a residential development of 38 dwellings at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire; and (2) against the council’s decision to refuse planning permission for a proposed windfarm of eight turbines at Howpark, Grantshouse, also in Berwickshire.  Details of the appeals can be found on the DPEA website (case references PPA-140-2059 & PPA-140-2060).

Four applications for windfarms, submitted to the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the 1989 Act, to which the Scottish Borders Council has objected, remain to be determined.  An inquiry into the application for a 14 turbine wind farm at Whitelaw Brae, near Tweedsmuir in Peeblesshire was held in September 2016.  The report of the inquiry has been sent to Scottish Ministers for determination and a decision is awaited (see DPEA case reference WIN-140-4).  An inquiry into the application for a 12 turbine extension to the existing Fallago Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills and the application to extend the operational life of the existing wind farm to coincide with that of the extension (if approved) was held in August 2017.  The details of both cases can be found on the DPEA website (case references WIN-140-5 & WIN-140-6).  It is likely to be next year before a decision on these applications is forthcoming.  An application for the erection of 15 wind turbines on land at Birneyknowe, near Bonchester Bridge, south-east of Hawick, to which the Scottish Borders Council, the community council, many residents of the local community and others have objected is to be the subject of further examination, probably involving an inquiry later this year; the arrangements for a pre-examination meeting have yet to be finalised but have provisionally been set for 25 October 2017 (see DPEA case reference WIN-140-7).

Planning in the Scottish Borders: County Planning becomes established

This second post on the history of planning in the Scottish Borders looks at the progress made by the four Scottish Border County Councils in establishing a planning system for the area.  The Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943 extended the control of development beyond those areas which were the subject of a planning scheme to cover the whole of a local authority’s area.  As a consequence, Planning Committees were set up by Selkirk, Roxburgh and Berwickshire County Councils in 1944 [the first meeting of Selkirk 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 first Chairman, Major Scott Plummer, and conducted its first business].  It would be 1948 before Peeblesshire County Council established its Planning Committee.

The first task for the new committees was to initiate surveys 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) and establish systems for dealing with planning applications submitted under the Interim Development powers conferred by the 1943 Act.  In the first instance, Planning Committees were advised by the County Clerk, assisted by the County Surveyor or County Architect, but private architect firms would soon be employed to carry out the initial surveys of their areas and provide advice on planning applications.  Selkirk County Council employed John C Hall, Architect of Galashiels, to undertake the initial survey of the county.  John C Hall, and subsequently his son John B. Hall, trading as J & J Hall, Architects of Galashiels, would become County Planning Officer for Selkirk County Council.  Roxburgh and Berwickshire County Councils would follow the same practice of employing local architects.  There were only eighteen qualified town planners working in Scotland in 1950, most of whom were in the Department of Health for Scotland.  Frank Tindall, appointed County Planning Officer of neighbouring East Lothian County Council in 1950, would be one of the first County Planning Officers in Scotland, but it would be the 1960s before Roxburgh and Berwickshire County Councils appointed County Planning Officers and Peeblesshire County Council would be advised by the County Planning Officer of Midlothian County Council.

As explained in the first post on the history of planning in the Scottish Borders, the recommendations contained in the Barlow, Scott and Uthwatt reports produced during the Second World War indicated that a complete overhaul of the planning system was required to allow reconstruction after the war.  The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947 heralded a new era of planned society and introduced a universal requirement to obtain planning consent for any development.  The Act gave wide ranging planning powers to the four county councils in the Scottish Borders: as well as the power to approve or refuse development proposals, they must prepare development plans; they could also carry out redevelopment themselves and they could use compulsory purchase powers to buy land and make it available for development by developers.  They were also given powers to control outdoor advertisements, preserve woodland and buildings of architectural or historic interest.

County development plans for the four counties in the Scottish Borders were approved by the Secretary of State for Scotland between 1955 and 1965.  The Selkirkshire County Development Plan, one of the first in Scotland, was approved in April 1955 (having been submitted to the Scottish Office in March 1953); the Peeblesshire County Development Plan quickly followed (submitted in June 1953 and approved in December 1955).  County development plans for Berwickshire and Roxburghshire would not be approved until February 1965 (the Berwickshire County Development Plan was submitted in December 1960, the Roxburghshire County Development Plan in December 1961).  These Plans would be updated by review and amendment during the 1960s; a Quinquennial Review of the Selkirkshire County Development Plan would be approved in January 1968 (submitted in May 1964) and a number of amendments would be made to the Roxburghshire County Development Plan, principally in relation to development in the burghs of Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso.

These county development plans were prepared against the background of a declining population, particularly in the rural areas, and a shortage of labour in the predominant industries of the main towns, the Tweed and Hosiery industries.  The four development plans sought to stabilise the population overall and increase the population of the main towns through the allocation of land for housing.  In their original form, the development plans allocated land that would allow for a combined population of 106,000, compared with a 1951 population of 107,575.

The next posts will look in more detail at how the four county councils saw their areas developing during this crucial period of change.

 

Local Development Plan Update: September 2017

Scottish Borders Council is currently preparing a new Local Development Plan (Local Development Plan 2) to replace the current LDP to guide future development within the Scottish Borders for the period 2021-2026.  SBC is at the very early stages of this process and is gathering evidence to produce the first document called the ‘Main Issues Report’, which will focus on the key areas of change from the current LDP and will present a range of options for future development.  A Call for Sites as part of the preparation of the MIR invited land owners, developers and agents to submit proposed development sites for consideration.  The period for submitting site proposals expired on 7 August 2017.

SBC is now holding a series of drop-in and workshop sessions for those people interested in the future development of the Scottish Borders to feed into the MIR process.  The council is proposing to hold drop-in and workshop sessions on the dates below (drop-in sessions will run from 2pm-5pm and workshop sessions from 6pm):

  • Thursday 21 September:        Community Centre, Eyemouth
  • Tuesday 26 September:         Town Hall, Kelso
  • Wednesday 27 September:    Tesco Foyer, Galashiels (drop-in session) and Transport Interchange, Galashiels (workshop session)
  • Thursday 28 September:       Burgh Hall, Peebles
  • Tuesday 3 October:                Heritage Hub, Hawick
  • Thursday 5 October:              Council Chamber, Duns
  • Tuesday 10 October:              Pop-up Shop, 1 Tower Street, Selkirk (drop-in session) and Community Connections, Back Row, Selkirk (workshop session)
  • Thursday 12 October:            Council Chamber, Newtown St. Boswells (workshop session only, 2pm-4pm)

The workshop sessions will accommodate up to 30 participants and will last about 2 hours.  Anyone wishing to attend, should let the council’s Forward Planning Team know either by email: localplan@scotborders.gov.uk or by letter to:  Forward Planning Team,  Scottish Borders Council,  Newtown St. Boswells,  Melrose,  TD6 0SA

If you want to make your views known on the future priorities for development in the Scottish Borders, here is your chance to get involved.

Planning in the Scottish Borders: Origins

This is the first in a series of posts, which will eventually form the basis of a book on the history of town and country planning in the Scottish Borders.  The origins of town and country planning in Britain lie in the dramatic changes in nineteenth-century society caused by the industrial revolution with an influx of people from the countryside into the towns.  Houses and factories were constructed cheek by jowl; there was no control over standards of construction and little or no regard for proper ventilation and sanitation.  Model villages, built by industrial philanthropists, such as New Lanark, the brainchild of David Dale and his son-in-law Robert Owen, showed how workers could be housed in healthy surroundings.  The Public Health (Scotland) Act 1897 gave local authorities powers to secure proper standards of drainage and sewage and regulate the width of streets, space between houses and size of rooms.  However, these powers did not deal with more general land-use problems, such as the proximity of housing and heavy industry.

Until the passing of The Housing, Town Planning, etc. Act, 1909, which applied to Scotland, local authorities did not possess any right or power to control or regulate the development of the towns and districts under their jurisdiction.  The 1909 Act was the first enactment in Great Britain to deal with the subject of town planning.  Under the 1909 Act, local authorities could make town planning schemes for defined areas which were in the course of development or which appeared likely to be used for building purposes.  The Housing, Town Planning, etc. (Scotland) Act, 1919 introduced compulsory town planning schemes for every burgh with a population of 20,000 or more.  However, the largest town in the Scottish Borders, Hawick, had a population of only 16,900 and so this Act had no effect here.  The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1932 extended the scope for planning action by enabling all local authorities to make planning schemes for almost any land.  However, planning schemes were very inflexible and the prospect of having to pay heavy compensation to those who sustained financial loss in consequence of such a scheme deterred many authorities from making planning schemes.  No action was taken in the Scottish Borders under this Act.

In the 1930s, major land use problems began to emerge nationally; urban sprawl and ribbon development attracting most attention.  A series of Royal Commissions set up during the Second World War looked into specific problems relating to the control of development in anticipation of the need to rebuild the country after hostilities had ceased.  The Barlow Report (1940) recommended the decentralisation of population and industry.  It led to the establishment of new towns such as East Kilbride and Glenrothes in Scotland.  The Scott Report (1941) called for local planning to become compulsory and the approval of the local authority to be required for new development.  The Uthwatt Report (1942) recommended that all land should be brought within development control to prevent development prejudicial to post-war reconstruction plans.

The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947 sought to give effect to the recommendations contained in the Barlow, Scott and Uthwatt reports.  These Acts were the foundations of the modern town and country planning system.  Under the 1947 Acts, planning permission was required for the development of land and local authorities were given wide ranging powers: as well as approving planning proposals, they must prepare development plans; they could also carry out redevelopment themselves and they could use compulsory purchase powers to buy land and make it available for development by developers.  They were also given powers to control outdoor advertisements, preserve woodland and buildings of architectural or historic interest.

In Scotland, Patrick Geddes (1854-1932), biologist, sociologist, geographer, philanthropist and pioneering town planner, advocated a regional approach to planning that took account of the complex relationships between people and their environment.  This approach bore fruit in 1943 when the wartime Secretary of State for Scotland, Tom Johnston, asked Sir Frank Mears, architect and planning consultant, Patrick Geddes’ son-in-law, to prepare a regional plan for central and south-east Scotland, which included the Scottish Borders.  His Regional Survey and Plan for Central and South-East Scotland was published in 1946.  It was one of three major regional plans for Scotland’s post-war reconstruction; the others were the Clyde Valley Regional Plan 1946 by Sir Patrick Abercrombie and Robert Matthew and the Tay Valley Plan 1950 by Robert Lyle and Gordon Payne.

Sir Frank Mears’ report recommends some far-reaching proposals for the future development of central and south-east Scotland, including a new Forth Road Crossing and by-pass for Edinburgh and a new town in Fife (Glenrothes).  The report provides a comprehensive assessment of the population, economy and land use of the Scottish Borders and sets out proposals for the future planning and economic development of the area.  At the time, there was a shortage of labour in the Tweed industry and the report warned that the progress of existing industries and any prospect of introducing new small-scale industries was handicapped by lack of housing.  The decline in population experienced since 1871, particularly the decline in the younger age groups, would accelerate unless housing was provided on a generous scale.  In order to co-ordinate future action, the report 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 site outside St. Boswells could be developed as an assembly plant for the hundreds of pre-fabricated houses required after the war.  In Berwickshire, where rural depopulation was particularly severe, a development commission would be established to encourage rural industries; at Eyemouth, a new harbour would be constructed to provide improved facilities for the fishing industry.  The report also draws attention to the inadequacy of east-west road communications through the Tweed Basin (a recurring theme in subsequent development plans), and suggests a major new road link between Berwickshire and Lanarkshire utilising improved existing roads but also including by-passes for St. Boswells/Newtown St. Boswells, Melrose and Galashiels in the central borders and Walkerburn and Innerleithen in Peeblesshire..

The Mears report would pave the way for the preparation of the first county development plans by Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire County Councils.  However, in many respects, the Mears Report was too radical, some might say too academic, in its approach to the future development of the region and did not take due account of the historic pattern of development and local politics.  Consequently, few of its recommendations would find their way into the new County Development Plans.  In the second post on the history of town and country planning in the Scottish Borders, we shall see how the local authorities envisaged the region developing in the subsequent years.

Development Management: August up-date

During August 2017, Scottish Borders Council received 127 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents.  These included such diverse proposals as an application for the approval of the details of proposed housing at Caerlee Mill, Innerleithen; a development of 44 dwellinghouses, comprising detached, semi-detached, terraced and flatted dwellings, previously granted planning permission in principle in March 2016 (SBC Ref. 17/01174/AMC); an application for planning permission for the erection of a Pagan Multi-Faith Temple at Kirkburn, near Cardrona in Peeblesshire (SBC Ref. 17/01039/FUL); and a re-application for the council’s own waste transfer station at Easter Langlee, Galashiels (SBC Ref. 17/01149/FUL), previously refused planning permission in April 2017 on the grounds that the Langshaw Road (C77) is inadequate for the additional traffic likely to be generated by the proposal.

The submission of a pre-application request for a screening opinion under Regulation 8 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations 2017 for the erection of new car showroom, including workshop, offices, petrol filling station, shop and café on the west side of the A68 north of the existing Toyota Garage at St. Boswells was submitted to the council on 1 August 2017.  An exhibition on the proposed development is to be held at St. Boswells Village Hall on Tuesday 12 September (advertised in the Southern Reporter on 31 August 2017), where members of the project team will be in attendance to answer questions regarding the proposals.

During August 2017, the council decided some 120 applications, only a handful of which were refusals of planning permission.  On the 7 August, the Planning and Building Standards Committee refused planning permission, on the casting vote of the Chairman, for the erection of storage and distribution buildings and an ancillary dwellinghouse on land outside Dolphinton on the grounds that it had not been demonstrated that there were overriding economic and/or operational reasons for locating the business in this countryside location.  The proposed development, which would accommodate the applicant’s two existing businesses which currently operate from the Dolphinton area, comprised a range of buildings housing a loading bay and cement silo, garaging and vehicle store, materials storage sheds and an external area for the manufacture and storage of concrete blocks.  The council considered that the proposal would represent unjustified, sporadic and prominent development in the open countryside contrary to policies of the adopted local development plan.  It is yet to be seen whether the applicant will appeal against the decision to refuse planning permission or accept the decision.  The applicant has three months to appeal to the Scottish Ministers (the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals).

Four other applications were refused planning permission by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers; applications for: (1) the erection of two chalets for holiday accommodation at Falahill Cottages, Heriot; (2) a dwellinghouse on Deanfoot Road in West Linton; (3) the formation of a short-stay holiday park and erection of 12 mobile log cabins at Kirkburn, Cardrona near Peebles; and (4) an agricultural building at Kirkburn, Cardrona, near Peebles.  Will any of these refusals be referred to the Local Review Body?

Since the election of the new Scottish Borders Council in May 2017, the Local Review Body has dealt with fourteen reviews of decisions by officers under delegated powers; in ten cases, the Local Review Body upheld the decision of the officer.  In four cases, the officer’s decision was reversed or varied: (1) the deemed refusal of planning permission, through a failure to determine the application within the prescribed period, for the erection of a detached garage with first floor studio and extension to dwellinghouse at Danderhall Cottage, St. Boswells, was reversed and planning permission granted subject to a number of conditions; (2) the decision to grant planning permission for a new dwellinghouse on land at Dundas Cottage, Ettrick, subject to a condition that required a slate roof on the dwellinghouse rather than a metal profile sheet roof, was varied to allow the use of grey metal profile roof cladding; (3) the decision to refuse planning permission for the erection of two dwellinghouses at Broomlee Mains, West Linton, was reversed and planning permission granted subject to conditions; and (4) the decision to refuse planning permission for a vehicle body repair workshop on land at Dunrig, Spylaw Farm, Lamancha, West Linton was reversed and planning permission granted subject to conditions.

Details of all the applications received by the council and all the decisions made in August can be found on the Scottish Borders Council’s website.