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.

Renewable Energy Development: Wind Farm Guidance

Wind farms have been a significant issue in the Scottish Borders for a number of years.  By December 2016, 483 turbines over 15m in height to blade tip had been approved in the Scottish Borders with the potential to generate 747MW of energy.  Many of the larger scale commercial developments have taken place in the Lammermuir Hills; at Crystal Rig, Aikengall and Fallago Rig, and within the Moorfoot Hills at Dun Law.  In response to the increasing number of proposals for wind farms, the Scottish Borders Council prepared Supplementary Planning Guidance on Wind Energy in May 2011 to reflect Scottish Planning Policy set out in 2010.  However, the 2010 Scottish Planning Policy requirements have been superseded by Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) 2014.  SPP 2014 requires planning authorities to prepare spatial frameworks for onshore wind farms based on three distinct areas: (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 policy criteria.

The Scottish Government Reporters who examined the Proposed Local Development Plan in 2015 were of the view that the Local Development Plan and the Supplementary Planning Guidance approved in 2011 did not comply with the new national policy (SPP 2014) and proposed modifications to the Local Development Plan that required the council to prepare Supplementary Guidance on Renewable Energy, to include other forms of renewable energy as well as wind energy, within one year of the adoption of the Local Development Plan.  The Scottish Borders Local Development Plan was adopted in May 2016 and the council published its Draft Supplementary Guidance on Renewable Energy in December 2016.  The period for consultation on this supplementary guidance ended in April 2017.  The results of this consultation are still awaited!

In the meantime, Scottish Borders Council continues to deal with wind farm proposals and assess them against the relevant policies of the approved Strategic Development Plan 2013 and the adopted Local Development Plan 2016 supplemented by its adopted 2011 Supplementary Planning Guidance on wind energy.

Development Management: Appeals

An applicant for planning permission can challenge the decision of the council to refuse planning permission or attach conditions to the grant of planning permission and can appeal against the non-determination of an application within the time period prescribed by regulations (usually two months).  If the application was determined by the Planning and Building Standards Committee of Scottish Borders Council, any appeal must be made to the Scottish Government’s Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA).  Details of how to submit such an appeal can be found on the DPEA website.

Recent decisions from the DPEA on applications determined by the Planning and Building Standards Committee include the upholding of an appeal against the decision to limit planning permission to a limited period of two years for the part change of use of Hartree House, Kilbucho, near Biggar in Peebleshire to a wedding venue and the erection of marquees, and the refusal of planning permission for the erection of 19 holiday lodges at Whitmuir Hall, near Selkirk.  In the case of the proposal at Hartree House, the Reporter concluded that the imposition of a trial period of two years was unnecessary and granted planning permission without a time limit.  In the case of the proposal at Whitmuir Hall, the Reporter concluded that the proposal accorded with the development plan and that there were no other material considerations to justify a refusal of planning permission; the Reporter did not consider that the proposed development would have a negative impact on the landscape or on the Whitmuirhall Loch Site of Special Scientific Interest subject to the imposition of a number of conditions.  Details of both appeals can be found on the DPEA website (see case references PPA-140-2058 & PPA-140-2057).

Two appeals remain outstanding; against the council’s decision to refuse planning permission for a residential development of 38 dwellings at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire, and 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).

Any proposal to construct or operate a wind farm with a capacity in excess of 50 megawatts requires the consent of Scottish Ministers under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 (rather than planning permission under the town and country planning acts).  Four applications for wind farms, 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 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 the week beginning 21 August 2017 at the Carfraemill Hotel in Lauderdale.  The details of both cases and the representations made at the inquiry can be found on the DPEA website (case references WIN-140-5 & WIN-140-6).  It may be some time before a decision is made on these applications by Scottish Ministers.  An inquiry into the application for a 14 turbine wind farm at Whitelaw Brae, near Tweedsmuir in Peebleshire was held in September 2016.  After a few delays, the report of the inquiry has now been sent to Scottish Ministers for determination.  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 an inquiry, probably later this year; the arrangements have yet to be finalised (see case reference WIN-140-7 on DPEA website).  Watch this space for further news!

Update on Draft Housing Supplementary Guidance (SG)

The Scottish Borders Local Development Plan (LDP) was adopted in May 2016.  However, the Reporters from the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals, who carried out the examination of the LDP concluded that there was a shortfall in housing land and that the Council should prepare and submit to Scottish Ministers, within 12 months of adoption of the LDP, Supplementary Guidance (SG) identifying additional sites to provide for a further 916 housing units. Following the production of a Draft Housing SG in December 2016, which has been the subject of public consultation, the Council has now approved the Supplementary Guidance on Housing for submission to the Scottish Ministers.

The Housing SG, approved by Scottish Borders Council on 24 August 2017, proposes the inclusion of the following sites, comprising 926 housing units, within the adopted LDP:

Berwickshire Housing Market Area

  • Land north of High Street, Ayton (6 units)
  • Hillview North (Phase 1), Coldstream (100 units)
  • Reston Long Term 2, Reston (38 units)

Central Housing Market Area

  • Lintburn Street, Galashiels (8 units)
  • Rose Court, Galashiels (12 units)
  • Former Castle Warehouse Site, Galashiels (30 units)
  • Leishman Place, Hawick (5 units)
  • Henderson Road, Hawick (6 units)
  • Factory – Fairhurst Drive, Hawick (10 units)
  • Tweed Court, Kelso (15 units)
  • Nethershot (Phase 2), Kelso (100 units)
  • Former High School Site, Kelso (50 units)
  • The Orchard, Newstead (6 units)
  • Angles Field, Selkirk (30 units)
  • Heather Mill, Selkirk (75 units)
  • Lowood, Tweedbank (300 units)

Northern Housing Market area

  • Caerlee Mill, Innerleithen (35 units)
  • Rosetta Road Mixed Use, Peebles (30 units)
  • March Street Mill, Peebles (70 units)

Once the Supplementary Guidance has been agreed by the Scottish Ministers, it will form part of the adopted LDP 2016.

 

Development Management: Overview

In the Scottish Borders the determination of applications for planning permission in respect of large scale developments, such as a housing development comprising 50 or more dwellings or where the development site exceeds 2 hectares, and which is significantly contrary to the local development plan, is a matter for the Council as a whole to consider.  The Planning and Building Standards Committee is responsible for deciding all other applications for planning permission but has delegated the determination of most applications to the Service Director Regulatory Services (Chief Planning Officer, Ian Aikman).  The Service Director is authorised to determine applications for planning permission for development, other than large scale developments, and any other application for consent, agreement or approval required by a condition imposed on a planning permission for a development, other than a large scale development, except where:

  • it is proposed to approve the application and the proposal is significantly contrary to the Development Plan;
  • it is proposed to approve the application and there are at least five letters of representation from separate households that raise material planning comments;
  • it is proposed to approve the application and there is a formal objection from a statutory consultee;
  • the Planning and Building Standards Committee decides to deal with the application itself; or
  • the application is submitted by an elected Member of the Council.

The Planning and Building Standards Committee consists of nine members, under the chairmanship of Councillor Tom Miers, member for Leaderdale and Melrose.  The Committee meets twelve times a year to consider those applications for planning permission that have not been delegated to the Service Director for determination.  In 2016/2017, the council decided 635 planning applications and granted 177 other consents, including 91 listed building and conservation area consents and 30 advertisement consents; 95% of all applications were approved (the Scottish average was 94.2%).

In 2016/2017, the Planning and Building Standards Committee considered 37 applications for planning permission.  Two appeals to Scottish Ministers, against the refusal of planning permission by the Committee, were decided by Reporters appointed by Scottish Ministers (one was upheld and one was dismissed).  96.9% of all applications were delegated to the Service Director (Chief Planning Officer) for decision (the Scottish average was 95.3%).  Twenty-nine of these decisions were appealed and went to the Local Review Body for a review of the decision.  The Local Review Body, which is comprised of the nine members of the Planning and Building Standards Committee and is chaired by the chairman of that committee, conducts reviews of applications for planning permission that have been refused, granted subject to conditions or not determined within the prescribed period (usually 2 months) by the Service Director, i.e. the Chief Planning Officer.  In 2016/2017, the Local Review Body, which also met twelve times, overturned 16 of the original 29 decisions by the Service Director; only 44.8% of the original decisions were upheld.

Notable refusals of planning permission by the Planning and Building Standards Committee in 2017 include a residential development of 38 dwellings on Marchmont Road, Greenlaw, Berwickshire; a proposed windfarm of eight turbines at Howpark, Grantshouse, Berwickshire (contrary to the officer’s recommendation); and the Council’s own proposed waste transfer station at Easter Langlee, Galashiels (also refused contrary to the officer’s recommendation).  The refusal of planning permissions for the residential development at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw and the proposed wind farm development at Howpark, Grantshouse are the subject of appeals to the Scottish Ministers.

The proposal for a waste transfer station at Easter Langlee, Galashiels, refused planning permission in April on the grounds that the Langshaw Road (C77) is inadequate for the additional traffic likely to be generated by the proposal, is now the subject of an amended application submitted on 17 August 2017.  According to the Transport Statement, which accompanies the application, a review of improvement options for the Langshaw Road has been carried out and a series of measures have been identified, which it is hoped will satisfy the Planning and Building Standards Committee.  We shall have to wait and see!

Follow this website to see how applications for planning permission are dealt with in 2017/2018.  There will be a monthly report on planning applications received by the Scottish Borders Council, and decisions made, together with updates on appeals to the Scottish Ministers.

Position Statement on Development Plan

Scottish Borders Council’s development plan sets out the council’s vision for development and transportation within the Scottish Borders.  The development plan currently consists of the Scottish Borders Local Development Plan (LDP), adopted in May 2016, commonly referred to as the Local Plan, and the Strategic Development Plan produced by SESplan, a partnership of the 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.

The Scottish Government Reporters who examined the Local Development Plan in 2015 proposed modifications that require an additional 916 housing units to be identified through supplementary guidance (SG).  As a result, the council published a Draft Housing SG for consultation in December 2016. The period for consultation has now closed and its officers are working through responses.

Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is currently preparing a new Local Development Plan 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’ (MIR), which will focus on the key areas of change from the current LDP and will present a range of options for change.  A Call for Sites as part of the preparation of the MIR invites land owners, developers and agents to submit proposed development sites for consideration.  The period for submitting site proposals expired on 7 August 2017.  Once prepared, the MIR will be the subject of wide consultation before the council reaches a view on the way forward and prepares its Proposed Local Development Plan 2.

SESplan’s second Proposed Strategic Development Plan was submitted to Scottish Ministers in June 2017.  Outstanding issues raised through representations during consultation in October and November 2016 will be the subject of examination by a Reporter appointed by Scottish Ministers some time later this year.

Keep checking this website for updates on the council’s progress on the Draft Housing SG and the new Local Development Plan and on the progress of the second Proposed Strategic Development Plan.  Interesting times ahead!