Development Management: November 2018 update

During November 2018, the Scottish Borders Council received some 130 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees.  Undoubtedly, the application which will catch most public attention is the application for a mixed use development including a hotel, restaurant with drive-thru facility, food retail store and petrol filling station with shop on a site at Tweedbank Industrial Estate (SBC Ref: 18/01520/FUL).  The site was previously acquired by B&Q but the planning application for a warehouse was never determined and was eventually withdrawn.  A supporting statement explains that the proposed “Borders Gateway” development includes a BP Filling Station and M&S Food Kiosk, Costa Coffee Drive Thru, Premier Inn with 71 beds and a discount food retail unit with 108 car spaces.  The site forms part of a much larger area zoned as a strategically important employment area and is outwith the area adjacent to the train station zoned for mixed uses in the local development plan, which has been suggested as a possible site for a hotel.  Whilst some organisations have welcomed the proposals, concerns have already been expressed by Galashiels Community Council about the effect of such a development on Galashiels town centre and on the prospects for a new hotel in Galashiels, for which a number of possible alternative sites have been identified.  With consultations on the new local development plan (LDP2) on-going, a decision on this application is likely to take some time and is likely to be controversial, whichever way it goes.  I am looking forward to hearing the debate when the matter, eventually, comes before the council’s Planning and Building Standards Committee for determination!

Elsewhere, opposition is mounting in Melrose to the proposal by Rural Renaissance Ltd for 26 dwellinghouses on land at The Croft, Dingleton Road (SBC Ref: 18/01385/FUL).  As predicted, this proposal has attracted a great deal of attention amongst the population of Melrose and almost 60 objections have been received.  Particular concerns relate to the suitability of Dingleton Road to accept traffic from additional housing development and to the impact of any development on the character and landscape value of the Eildon Hills.  This application will no doubt be another test for the Planning and Building Standards Committee.

Eildon Housing submitted a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) for the redevelopment of the Earlston High School site for residential development on the 25 October (SBC Ref: 18/01493/PAN).  The community engagement event proposed for some time between the 15th and 30th November in Earlston Church Hall, is now to be held on 6 December (between 5.00pm and 8.00pm).

In Kelso, a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) has been submitted by local builders M & J Ballantyne for alterations and conversion of the former Kelso High School to form extra care housing and the erection of private housing within the grounds (SBC Ref: 18/01574/PAN).  A public drop-in event was held on 22 November in the Assembly Room at the High School.  Any subsequent planning application cannot be submitted before 1 February 2019 and a pre-application consultation report will need to accompany the application detailing the results of the pre-application consultations, including the public event.

Back to the recurring issue of wind farms; another interesting application for the council’s Planning and Building Standards Committee will be the application by Energiekontor to vary conditions 2 & 4 of planning consent 17/00010/FUL for the Pines Burn Wind Farm sited south-west of Bonchester Bridge, which was granted planning permission on appeal by the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) in August 2018.  This application (SBC Ref: 18/01443/FUL) requests that the micro-siting distance for turbines from the position shown on the approved plans be increased to 100m and that the tip height of five of the turbines be increased to 149.9m.  Having refused planning permission for the development, it will be interesting to see the attitude of the Planning and Building Standards Committee to these proposed deviations from the plans approved by Scottish Ministers.

Another wind farm case that will require to be considered by the Planning and Building Standards Committee is the application by Energiekontor to vary conditions 1, 3, 4 & 14 of planning permission 13/00789/FUL for the Braidlie Wind Farm, near the Hermitage Valley south of Hawick, which was also granted planning permission on appeal by the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division in June 2016.  This application (SBC Ref: 18/01456/FUL) requests an extension of time to initiate development, an increase of the micro-siting allowance from 50m to 100m, an increase in tip height of six of the turbines to 149.9m and also requests a relaxation to allow the development to commence prior to the approval of the required ATC Radar Mitigation Scheme. Again, it will interesting to see the attitude of the Planning and Building Standards Committee to these proposed deviations from the plans approved by Scottish Ministers.

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 November, some 130 applications have been determined by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers, ten of which have been refused planning permission.  Perhaps the most contentious is the application for the change of use of the Redburn Garage, located in a prominent position on the Peebles Road on the outskirts of Galashiels, to joiner’s workshop and showroom, caravan repairs and sales, car valet, retail and the siting of a catering unit (SBC Ref: 18/00723/FUL).  This is a retrospective application for the former Bruce Motors Garage and Showroom which has been in use for above uses for some time.  Whilst the Chief Planning Officer considered that some aspects of the development are acceptable, the application has been refused because of the retail and joiner’s workshop element of the development.

Elsewhere planning permission has been refused for: (i) the erection of a dwellinghouse on land at Tarf House, West Linton (SBC Ref: 18/01341/PPP); (ii) the erection of two dwellinghouses at Croupyett, Ancrum (SBC Ref: 18/01177/PPP); (iii) the erection of an extension to a dwellinghouse at Townhead Way, Newstead (SBC Ref: 18/01215/FUL); (iv) the erection of a storage shed at 17 Leithen Road, Innerleithen (SBC Ref: 18/01116/FUL); (v) the erection of 7 additional workshop units, including one to be used as a dog day-care facility together with exercise area at Farknowes, Langshaw Road, Galashiels (SBC Ref: 18/01229/FUL); (vi) the erection of a dwellinghouse at Old Graden, Kelso (SBC Ref: 18/01252/PPP); (vii) the erection of a dwellinghouse at Linthill, Lilliesleaf, by Melrose (SBC Ref: 18/01332/PPP); (viii) the erection of a dwellinghouse on Eddy Road, Newstead, Melrose (SBC Ref: 18/01060/FUL; and (ix) the change of use of the Mansfield Bar on Mansfield Road in Hawick to a residential flat (SBC Ref: 18/01330/FUL).  Since it seems to be the practice for applicants who are refused planning permission by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers to appeal the decision, the council’s Local Review Body is going to be busy in the coming months.

At its meeting on 5 November, the Planning and Building Standards Committee decided to continue consideration, pending a site visit, of the application for the redevelopment of the March Street Mills site in Peebles for residential units (SBC Ref: 17/00063/PPP).  This proposal, submitted almost two years ago after extensive pre-application consultation, has generated considerable opposition from Peebles residents and a wide range of other local organisations.  At the time of writing, the agent for the developer, Moorbrook Textiles Ltd, has intimated that they are not prepared to wait any longer for a decision from the council and have decided to submit an appeal to the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) against the non-determination of the application.  It is interesting to see that in submitting the appeal rather than wait for a decision from the Planning and Building Standards Committee, the agents for the applicants indicate that the decision to appeal: “has been driven by the understanding of the appellant that the key determining issues and planning balance……are highly complex and emotive, such that they consider that placing the decision making in the hands of a Reporter acting on behalf of Scottish Ministers to be the appropriate action”.  Watch this space!

At its meeting on 19 November, the Local Review Body (LRB) reversed two decisions of its Chief Planning Officer to refuse planning permission for: (1) the erection of a dwellinghouse on land at Ladywood, Lower Greenhill, Selkirk (SBC Ref: 18/00929/PPP); and (2) the erection of a dwellinghouse at Chapel Cottage, Melrose (SBC Ref: 18/00644/PPP).  The LRB did support the decision of the Chief Planning Officer to refuse planning permission in respect of the erection of a further two dwellinghouses at Lower Greenhill, Selkirk (SBC Ref: 18/00832/PPP) and to refuse planning permission 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).  In this case, the LRB considered that the loss of business space, although limited, would undermine the aims of the council’s recently approved Supplementary Guidance for the Central Borders (Tweedbank) Business Park.  Will this decision have any impact in relation to the more recent proposal on the Tweedbank Industrial Estate referred to above!

During November, the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) reached decisions on the appeals against the refusal of planning permission for: (1) the erection of a poultry building at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (SBC Ref: 17/00623/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2065); and (2) the erection of a poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (SBC Ref: 16/01377/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2062).  In both cases, the Reporter appointed to determine the appeal, reversed the decision of the council and granted planning permission for the proposals.  One appeal against the refusal of planning permission remains to be determined: 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).

The Reporter’s report and recommendations have been submitted to Scottish Ministers for their decision in connection with the application by Eildon Housing Association for residential development at Huddersfield Street, Galashiels, which was called-in for determination by Scottish Ministers in view of the possible flood risk (SBC Ref: 17/00695/FUL) (DPEA Ref: NA-SBD-054).

The appeal against the serving of an enforcement notice by the council alleging that the use of land south and east of the property ‘Oaklands’ in Ednam village, near Kelso has been changed from agricultural land to garden ground without planning permission and that a variety of domestic structures have been erected/placed on the land (SBC Ref: 17/00131/UNDEV) (DPEA Ref: ENA-140-2012) remains to be determined.  The site inspection has been arranged for 6 December.  The appeal against the council’s refusal to issue a Certificate of Lawful Use, as a dwellinghouse, of a property used in the past as a guest house at Camptown, south of Jedburgh also remains to be determined.(SBC Ref: 18/00849/CLEU) (DPEA Ref: CLUD-140-2002).

Two new appeals have been submitted to the DPEA.  As expected an appeal has been submitted against the decision of the Planning and Building Standards Committee, at its meeting on 3 September, to refuse planning permission against the Chief Planning Officer’s recommendation, for the construction of a wind farm comprising 7 turbines up to 132 metres high to tip height on land at Barrel Law, north west of Roberton (SBC Ref: 17/01255/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2072).  This is a revised proposal, following the withdrawal of concerns expressed by the Ministry of Defence over possible interference with radar at RAF Spadeadam in Cumbria and seismic monitoring at Eskdalemuir, near Langholm.  However, although the Chief Planning Officer recommended approval, the Committee decided on a vote of 5 votes to 2 to refuse the application on the grounds that the proposal would have significant and adverse impacts and effects on the landscape.  Representations on the appeal will be accepted by the DPEA until 21 December.

Whereas appeals against the refusal of planning permission by the Chief Planning Officer are referred to the council’s Local Review Body (LRB) for determination, appeals against the refusal of consent for works to trees by the council’s Tree Officer are a matter for the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA).  The council’s LRB has no locus in the matter (see my post on ‘Trees, woodlands and hedges’).  Although the council deals with over 100 tree works applications per year, very few are refused consent and appeals to the DPEA are rare.  In fact, only two such appeals appear on the DPEA website, one of which was withdrawn shortly after submission.  The second appeal, submitted on 15 November, relates to the refusal of Tree Works Consent for the removal of a mature copper beech tree at 22 Craigmyle Park, Clovenfords, near Galashiels (SBC Ref: 18/01057/TPO) (DPEA Ref: TWCA-140-2).  The appeal will be determined by a Reporter appointed by the DPEA through consideration of the written submissions from the council and the appellant and a site inspection.

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 these three applications have been submitted to Scottish Ministers and their decision is awaited.

Development Management: October 2018 update

During October 2018, the Scottish Borders Council received some 150 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees.  Amongst the applications submitted, perhaps the one to catch most public attention is the application by T.J. Morris Ltd (Home Bargains) for the change of use of the Homebase Store at Galalaw Business Park, Hawick to allow 30% of the floor space to be used for food retailing (SBC Ref: 18/01441/FUL).  The proposed development would create 50 full-time equivalent jobs compared with the 27 currently employed at the Homebase Store.  The application has already been welcomed by local councillors.  However, whilst the proposed development is likely to generate additional employment, it is unlikely to have any beneficial effect on the viability and vitality of Hawick town centre.  Also during October, an application was received for the demolition of the Armstrong’s (Almstrong’s) building, which once housed a valued department store on Oliver Crescent, and the erection of a replacement office building (SBR Refs: 18/01419/CON & 18/01420/FUL).  A perfect illustration of how the town centre is changing with the expansion of retailing on Commercial Road.

In Galashiels, an application has been received from Eildon Housing Association for further residential development, comprising 69 dwellinghouses, at Coopersknowe Crescent (SBC Ref: 18/01416/FUL).  The site lies on the western side of the Langshaw Road between the private housing development at Coopersknowe Crescent and the Langlee Industrial Estate and is comprised of the former Easter Langlee farm steading and surrounding agricultural land.  This application follows the submission of a Proposal of Application Notice in June 2018 and a programme of pre-application public consultation.  Objections to the proposal have already been submitted and it will be interesting to see how this development proposal is dealt with by the council.  Eildon Housing has also submitted a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) for the redevelopment of the Earlston High School site for residential development (SBC Ref: 18/01493/PAN).  It is proposed to hold a community engagement event sometime between the 15th and 30th November in Earlston Church Hall.  The subject will also be discussed at Earlston Community Council meeting on the 15th November.  Watch out for further news and the advertisement in the local press.

In Melrose, an application has now been received for the erection of 26 dwellinghouses on land at The Croft, Dingleton Road (SBC Ref: 18/01385/FUL).  The site is allocated for housing in the Local Development Plan with a capacity for 25 houses.  A Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) was submitted by the developer, Rural Renaissance Ltd, in January 2018, and a public exhibition of the proposed development was held in Melrose Rugby Club (SBC Ref: 18/00016/PAN).  This site has a long history of planning proposals and, as predicted, this proposal has attracted a great deal of attention amongst the population of Melrose.  Particular concerns relate to the suitability of Dingleton Road to accept traffic from additional housing development and to the impact of any development on the character and landscape value of the Eildon Hills.  Objections have already been submitted and this application will no doubt be another test for the Planning and Building Standards Committee.

In Tweeddale, a re-application has been submitted by Border Mix for the erection of a storage and distribution building and an ancillary dwellinghouse on a site north east of the Old Creamery outside Dolphinton (SBC Ref: 18/01377/FUL).  A similar application was refused by the Planning and Building Standards Committee in August 2017 (SBC Ref: 17/00087/FUL).  Refusal was primarily based on the absence of an overriding economic and/or operational need.  Further information has now been produced to show that, given the absence of other suitable sites within the market area, the Dolphinton site remains the only viable option to accommodate the relocation of Border Mix from the present site, which is within an established residential area in Dolphinton.  Another application for the Planning and Building Standards Committee.

In Tweeddale, an application has also been submitted by the Tweedsmuir Community Company for alterations to the Crook Inn Hotel, Tweedsmuir, the change of use and alterations to an outbuilding to a café and office, the erection of a bunkhouse and a biomass boiler building (SBC Ref: 18/01342/FUL).  A very welcome proposal for this historic hostelry, which has lain empty and decaying for a number of years.

In Berwickshire, an interesting proposal in Eyemouth involves the demolition of the existing boatyard buildings and their replacement (SBC Refs: 18/01374/CON & 18/01372/FUL).  Boat building and repair has taken place on this site for almost 200 years.  Boat building no longer takes place in the yard and the decline in the fishing industry has seen the yard struggle to remain profitable.  The existing slipways do not have the height to accommodate the largest fishing vessels under cover and they have to be worked on outside, which limits certain work to the summer months when the boats are most active.  Redevelopment of the yard will raise the height of the three sheds on the site to allow the maintenance and painting of vessels indoors and at all times of year.

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.

At its meeting on 1 October, the Planning and Building Standards Committee granted planning permission for the erection of 57 dwellinghouses on the north side of Main Street, East End, Chirnside (SBC Ref: 18/00147/FUL).  The proposed development will comprise 100% affordable housing.  At its meeting on 10 October, the Local Review Body (LRB) reversed two decisions of its Chief Planning Officer to refuse planning permission for: (1) the erection of two glamping units for holiday let on land at Flatt Farm, Newcastleton (SBC Ref: 18/00686/FUL); and (2) the change of use of steading, alterations and extension to form a dwellinghouse at Billerwell Farm, Hawick (SBC Ref: 18/00745/FUL).  In the first case, the LRB supported the proposals which represented an expansion of an existing farm diversification business based on tourism.  In the second case, the LRB, on a vote of 5 members to 4 members, considered that the amended design for the proposed dwellinghouse was acceptable.  The LRB did, however, support the decision of the Chief Planning Officer to refuse planning permission in respect of the installation of replacement windows at 41 North Hermitage Street, Newcastleton (SBC Ref: 18/01039/FUL).  Members did not consider that the proposed uPVC top-hung windows were acceptable in Newcastleton Conservation Area.

During October, some 100 applications were dealt with by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers.  Only one application was refused: an application for the replacement of shop front windows and door screens at Scott’s View Take-away, Main Street, St. Boswells (SBC Ref: 18/01010/FUL).  The existing uPVC shop front, which replaced a timber shop front, is the subject of enforcement action.  The current proposal seeks to replace the uPVC shop front with a timber frame painted white whilst the door and side panel would remain uPVC.  The Chief Planning Officer considers that, at this location within a conservation area, the whole of the shop front should be timber framed with a traditional timber door.

In Berwickshire, planning permissions have now been issued for the erection of a total of 75 dwellinghouses on land north-west of Springfield Avenue (SBC Ref: 17/00993/FUL & 18/00994/FUL).  Planning permission was granted in February 2018 subject to a section 75 agreement requiring the provision of a footpath link between the development site and Bridgend Place.  This agreement has now been finalised.  In Tweeddale, planning permission was granted for the development of up to 15 dwellinghouses on land south-west and south-east of Bowbank Cottages, Bellfield Road, Eddleston, subject to the improvement of the private road, which currently serves the site, up to adoptable standards and the improvement of the junction of Bellfield Road and the A703 (SBC Ref: 17/00767/PPP).

During October, the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) reached a decision on the appeal against the refusal of planning permission for a residential development at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire (SBC Ref: 16/01360/PPP) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2059).  The Reporter in this case decided to allow the appeal and grant planning permission in principle subject to 11 conditions and to a planning obligation under section 75 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 in order to secure a contribution towards affordable housing.  In deciding to allow the appeal, the Reporter, on the basis of the housing land supply information submitted, considered that there was a shortfall in the requirement to maintain a five year effective housing land supply at all times and concluded that there were strong reasons why an exceptional approval should be granted.  Questions will be asked as to how the council carries out its audit of housing land and calculates the supply of effective housing land.  No doubt, these issues will to the fore in the review of the local development plan.

An appeal was submitted to the DPEA on 9 October against the serving of an enforcement notice by the council alleging that the use of land south and east of the property ‘Oaklands’ in Ednam village, near Kelso has been changed from agricultural land to garden ground without planning permission and that a variety of domestic structures have been erected/placed on the land (DPEA Ref: ENA-140-2012).  Interested members of the public are entitled to make representations on the appeal until 6 November.

An appeal against the council’s refusal to issue a Certificate of Lawful Use of a property used in the past as a guest house, as a dwellinghouse, at Camptown, south of Jedburgh  remains to be determined (SBC Ref: 18/00849/CLEU) (DPEA Ref: CLUD-140-2002).  Three appeals remain to be determined against the refusal of planning permission: (1) 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); (2) for the erection of a poultry building at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2065); (3) for the erection of a poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2062).

The hearing session in connection with the application by Eildon Housing Association for residential development at Huddersfield Street, Galashiels, which was called-in for determination by Scottish Ministers in view of the possible flood risk (SBC Ref: 17/00695/FUL) (DPEA Ref: NA-SBD-054) was held on Wednesday 15 August in the Waverley Suite at the Transport Interchange, Galashiels.  The Reporter’s report and recommendations have been submitted to Scottish Ministers for their decision.

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 these three applications have been submitted to Scottish Ministers and their decision is awaited.

 

Development Management: September 2018 update

During September 2018, the Scottish Borders Council received over 150 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees.  There seems to be no end to the desire of wind farm operators to expand the number of wind turbines in the Scottish Borders; another wind farm proposal has been submitted for the Moorfoot Hills.  A Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) was submitted on 6 September for a wind farm of up to 9 turbines with tip heights up to 150 metres at Wull Muir, north of Carcant Lodge, near Heriot (SBC Ref: 18/01164/PAN).  An application for a Scoping Opinion on the same proposal was received on 24 September (SBC Ref: 18/01308/SCO).  In this case, the applicant has voluntarily decided to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prior to the submission of an application and has formally requested the opinion of Scottish Borders Council on the Scoping Report, which sets out the matters that should be included in an EIA.  The Scoping Report provides an outline of the environmental receptors that the developer considers may be significantly affected by the proposed development and the application for a Scoping Opinion invites comments on the scope of the proposed EIA.

Bearing in mind the attitude of the council’s Planning and Building Standards Committee on the recent proposal for a wind farm at Gilston Farm, Heriot and to other proposed wind farms in the area, the Wull Muir proposal is unlikely to be received with much enthusiasm.  No doubt the proposal will figure on a future agenda of the Council’s Planning and Building Standards Committee.  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.

Whilst on the subject of wind farms, it will come as no surprise to see that the Planning and Building Standards Committee, at its meeting on 3 September, refused planning permission, against the Chief Planning Officer’s recommendation, for the construction of a wind farm comprising 7 turbines up to 132 metres high to tip height on land at Barrel Law, north west of Roberton (SBC Ref: 17/01255/FUL).  This was a revised proposal, following the withdrawal of concerns expressed by the Ministry of Defence over possible interference with radar at RAF Spadeadam in Cumbria and seismic monitoring at Eskdalemuir, near Langholm.  However, although the Chief Planning Officer recommended approval, the Committee decided on a vote of 5 votes to 2 to refuse the application on the grounds that the proposal would have significant and adverse impacts and effects on the landscape.  Is another appeal to the Scottish Government likely?

On the subject of wind farm appeals, official figures from the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division show that, over the past 16 years, 250 wind turbine applications refused by Scottish Councils have been the subject of appeals to Scottish Ministers.  Of these 250 appeals, 104 (41.6%) were successful and planning permission was granted.  In the Scottish Borders, 9 of the 21 appeals dealt with were successful.

The Planning and Building Standards Committee at its meeting on 3 September granted listed building consent for the demolition of St. Aidan’s Church and Church Hall in Galashiels (SBC Ref: 18/00309/LBC).  Planning permission and listed building consent had been granted in October 2015 for the demolition of the church hall and the conversion of the church into eleven flats.  However, it was submitted that the repair and conversion of the church is not economically viable, the property has been marketed with no serious interest from prospective purchasers.  Unfortunately, it would appear that demolition and redevelopment is the only alternative!

At its meeting on 17 September, the Local Review Body (LRB) overturned the decision of its Chief Planning Officer to refuse planning permission for the change of use of 37 Bank Street, Galashiels from a shop to a mortgage advisers (SBC Ref: 18/00764/FUL; 18/00018/RREF).  The Chief Planning Officer had determined that the change of use was not permissible under the council’s recently approved Pilot Scheme because it offered an inactive frontage and low footfall.  The LRB considered that although the proposed use did not fall within the range of uses identified in the Pilot Scheme, the proposed business would complement other uses in Bank Street and would make a significant positive contribution to the viability of the town centre.  The Local Review Body also overturned the Chief Planning Officers decision to refuse planning permission for the change of use of 52 Bank Street, Galashiels to a tattoo studio (SBC Ref: 18/00398/FUL; 18/00020/RREF).  The LRB considered that, whilst the tattoo studio did not fall within the extended acceptable use categories listed in the Pilot Scheme, policy Ed4 of the approved LDP allows other uses where they make a demonstrable contribution to the retail function of the town centre.  In this instance, the LRB was satisfied that it had been demonstrated that the business would make a significant positive contribution to the town centre and that a sufficiently persuasive case had been made to allow the business.  It will be interesting to see how many more proposals for the change of use of retail premises to other uses come forward in the Galashiels Core Retail Activity Area and whether there is any significant measurable change in footfall or a reduction in vacancy rates as a result.

During September, some 100 applications were dealt with by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers.  In Berwickshire, planning permission was granted for the erection of 27 affordable dwellinghouses on a site off Station Road, Duns (SBC Ref: 18/00337/FUL) and for the erection of 25 dwellinghouses, a new village hall and formation of playing field on land south and west of Swinton Primary School (SBC Ref: 12/01488/PPP).  Three planning applications were refused: (1) an application for replacement windows on a property in North Hermitage Street, Newcastleton (SBC Ref: 18/00211/FUL); (2) an application for an isolated house in the countryside, near Chapel Farm, between Midlem and Lilliesleaf (SBC Ref: 18/00956/FUL); and (3) an application for a dwellinghouse on a site east of Keleden, Ednam (SBC Ref: [the Local Review Body granted planning permission in principle for a dwellinghouse on the site in July 2018 but the Chief Planning Officer considers that the layout, siting and orientation of the proposed building makes poor use of the plot and the size and scale of the proposed house is too large].

During September, the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) reached a decision on the appeal against the imposition of two conditions on the planning permission, granted on 26 March 2018, for the erection of two wind turbines on land at No. 6 Lamberton Holdings in Berwickshire.  The appealed conditions relate to the requirement to decommission and remove the turbines within 25 years (SBC Ref: 17/01348/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2071).  The Reporter decided to vary the appealed conditions and, given the scale and location of the proposed foundations, deleted the requirement to remove the foundations and restore the site to its original condition when electricity generation ceases.

An appeal against the council’s refusal to issue a Certificate of Lawful Use of a property used in the past as a guest house, as a dwellinghouse, at Camptown, south of Jedburgh was submitted on 25 September 2018 (DPEA Ref: CLUD-140-2002).  An interesting case for the DPEA!

Four appeals remain to be determined against the refusal of planning permission: (1) 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); (2) for the erection of a poultry building at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2065); (3) for the erection of a poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2062); and (4) a residential development of 38 dwellings at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2059).

The hearing session in connection with the application by Eildon Housing Association for residential development at Huddersfield Street, Galashiels, which was called-in for determination by Scottish Ministers in view of the possible flood risk (SBC Ref: 17/00695/FUL) (DPEA Ref: NA-SBD-054) was held on Wednesday 15 August in the Waverley Suite at the Transport Interchange, Galashiels.  It is expected that the Reporter’s report and recommendations will be submitted to Scottish Ministers in October.

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.  The Reporter dealing with the Birneyknowe wind farm application submitted his report to Scottish Ministers on 5 September 2018.

 

Development Management: August 2018 update

During August 2018, the Scottish Borders Council received 121 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees.  Two applications for residential development in Peebles have already generated a number of objections/comments from neighbouring residents; the erection of two blocks of flats comprising 40 residential units at Tweedbridge Court (SBC Ref: 18/01086/FUL) and the erection of 71 dwellinghouses on land south of the South Park Industrial Estate (SBC Ref: 18/01026/FUL).

The proposal for affordable housing by Eildon Housing Association at Tweedbridge Court occupies the site of the former Blackwood Housing sheltered housing scheme.  The proposal to erect two four-storey blocks of flats on the banks of the Tweed is causing some concern about the impact of the development on the iconic view from the Tweed Bridge.  Watch this space.

The site of the proposed 71 dwellinghouses by Persimmon Homes is allocated for 50 residential units in the local development plan.  It was the subject of a Proposal of Application Notice in April 2017 (SBC Ref: 17/00587/PAN).  No details of the proposal were submitted with the PAN, which intimated that details of the proposed development would be available at a forthcoming public consultation event but no date, time or location for the event was provided.  The pre-application consultation event proposed in the PAN did not take place until 10 July 2018 (publicised in the Peeblesshire News on 29 June 2018) more than a year after the submission of the PAN.  The subsequent planning application was submitted on 6 August 2018.  A number of concerns have already been raised by the local community, in particular, to the increased number of houses proposed and the suitability of Tweed Bridge and Caledonian Road to accept any further housing in this area south of the river.

This application is a perfect illustration of the uncertainties surrounding the Proposal of Application Notice procedure for large-scale developments.  As related in my March 2018 Development Management update, according to the Scottish Government’s Planning Circular 3/2013 on Development Management Procedures, a Proposal of Application Notice must contain an account of what consultations the applicant intends to undertake, when such consultation is to take place, with whom and what form it will take.  The Scottish Government wishes to encourage improved trust and open, positive working relationships from the earliest stages in the planning process and to provide, where possible, an early opportunity for community views to be reflected in proposals.  The purpose of pre-application consultation is, therefore, to improve the quality of applications, mitigate negative impacts where possible, address misunderstandings, and air and deal with any community issues that can be tackled so that the proposals benefit from that engagement and assist the efficient consideration of applications once submitted.

However, as in this case, some applicants are somewhat reticent in providing all the information required by the Regulations and PANs fail to specify when and where the required public event is to take place but leave it flexible.  A notice of the proposed public event must also be published in a local newspaper circulating in the locality at least 7 days before the holding of the public event and, as in this instance, this was the first intimation of the precise date, time and location, of the proposed public event.  Consequently, one has to question whether the public have had sufficient opportunity to engage with the developer and also the extent to which community views have been taken into account in framing the proposals when the planning application was submitted less than a month after the public event.

No doubt, both these proposals will figure on a future agenda of the Council’s Planning and Building Standards Committee.  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.

There were no meetings of the Planning and Buildings Standards Committee or the Local Review Body in August but some 114 applications were dealt with by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers.  Seven applications were refused; six applications for planning permission and a retrospective advertisement application:

  • Erection of two dwellinghouses at Stainie Brae, Lower Greenhill, Selkirk (SBC Ref: 18/00832/PPP);
  • Erection of dwellinghouse at Ladywood, Lower Greenhill, Selkirk (SBC Ref: 00929/PPP);
  • Change of use of a shop to a mortgage advisers at 37 Bank Street, Galashiels (SBC Ref: 00764/FUL);
  • Change of use and alterations of a steading to form a dwellinghouse at Billerwell Farm, Hawick (SBC Ref: 18/00745/FUL);
  • Alterations and extensions to the property ‘Rockmount’ at Mountain Cross, Peeblesshire (SBC Ref: 18/00711/FUL); and
  • Siting of a cabin for holiday let on land at Meadshaw Farmhouse, Hawick (SBC Ref: 18/00724/FUL).
  • Advanced sign for Woll Golf Course at main crossroads in Ashkirk village (SBC Ref: 18/00916/ADV);

Although the Planning and Buildings Standards Committee agreed on 16 July to the relaxation of its Town Centre Core Activity Area Policy as it applies to Galashiels for a period of one year (see post on ‘Town Centre Policy: Amendments to practice for processing planning applications, July 2018’), the Chief Planning Officer decided on 2 August 2018 that the change of use of 37 Bank Street from a shop to a mortgage advisers was not permissible under the Pilot Scheme because it offered an inactive frontage and low footfall.  An appeal to the Local Review Body would make for an interesting discussion.

In relation to appeals received by the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA), it is worth pointing out (because such appeals are relatively scarce) that an appeal was submitted on 13 August against the refusal of works to trees at Glenkinnon Wood in the Tweed Valley near Peel, Clovenfords (DPEA Ref: TWC-140-1; BRC Ref: 18/0621/TPO).  Tree works applications make up a significant proportion of applications to the Planning Department and this may not be the first refusal of Tree Works Consent issued by the Chief Planning Officer but it certainly was the first Tree Works Consent appeal in the Scottish Borders.  However, I shall not be able to report on its outcome for the appeal was quickly withdrawn on 23 August, ten days after it was submitted!

During August, the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) reached a decision on the appeal against 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).  Much to the ire of the local community, this appeal has been upheld and planning permission has been granted subject to 35 conditions.  In granting planning permission, the Reporter concluded that, although the proposed development would have localised and limited impacts on landscape and visual amenity and on archaeological assets, cumulative visual impacts would not be sufficient to reject the proposal.  He also considered that whilst there would be impacts on the amenity of nearby residential properties, these would not be to an extent which would breach the test which has been applied by Scottish Ministers in a similar case.  He was not persuaded by the evidence relating to the adverse effects of the development on tourism in this part of the Borders or specific tourism businesses.  He considered that other potential impacts could be appropriately managed through planning conditions and other control regimes.  In relation to the campaign for a Scottish Borders National Park, he attached little weight to this possible development, which is in the very early stages of investigation.

Five other appeals remain to be decided by the DPEA: one appeal is 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 appealed conditions relate to the requirement to decommission and remove the turbines within 25 years (SBC Ref: 17/01348/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2071).  The site inspection is programmed for the 12 September 2018.

Four appeals remain to be determined against the refusal of planning permission: (1) 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); (2) for the erection of a poultry building at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2065); (3) for the erection of a poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2062); and (4) a residential development of 38 dwellings at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2059).

The hearing session in connection with the application by Eildon Housing Association for residential development at Huddersfield Street, Galashiels, which was called-in for determination by Scottish Ministers in view of the possible flood risk (SBC Ref: 17/00695/FUL) (DPEA Ref: NA-SBD-054) was held on Wednesday 15 August in the Waverley Suite at the Transport Interchange, Galashiels.

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.  The Reporter dealing with the Birneyknowe wind farm application hopes to be in a position to submit his report to Ministers during September.

 

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.

 

 

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.