Development Planning Update: June 2019

Scottish Borders Council updates its Development Plan Scheme annually.  Its latest update was considered at the Council meeting on 28 March 2019.  The update confirms that preparation of the new Scottish Borders Local Development Plan (LDP2) is well under way.  The Main Issues Report (MIR), an important stage in the preparation of a local development plan, was the subject of a 12 week consultation period that closed on 31 January 2019 and in excess of 300 consultation responses were received.  The update points out that ‘It is important that the council now moves swiftly in the preparation of the Proposed Plan to ensure the Scottish Borders maintains an up-to-date Development Plan’.  It suggests that the Proposed LDP2 would be published towards the end of 2019 with formal consultation during the winter of 2019/2020.  Unfortunately, this update was written and presented to the council before the decision of the Scottish Ministers, in May 2019, to reject the Strategic Development Plan (SDP), SESplan2, with which the Proposed LDP2 must comply.

 At the time the MIR was finalised, the decision of Scottish Ministers on SESplan2 was still awaited.  The MIR was prepared to reflect the key objectives of the proposed SDP and stated that the Proposed LDP2 would take account of the provisions of SESplan2 and any amendments made by Scottish Ministers.  The Scottish Ministers decision to reject the proposed SDP has major implications for the progress of the Proposed LDP2 and for the local development plans of the other planning authorities within the SESplan area.  Any delay will affect the statutory requirement of planning authorities to produce adopted local development plans within a 5-year cycle [SBC’s existing local development plan was adopted in May 2016].  The planning authorities within the SESplan area are currently discussing this matter and seeking guidance as to how this matter should be resolved.

There is, therefore, some uncertainty as to when the Proposed LDP2 will be presented to the council for approval.  In the meantime, a report on the outcome of the public consultation on the MIR during the period November 2018 to January 2019 was presented to the council on 26 June.  This lengthy report details the representations received and the wide range of opinions expressed.  The highest number of objections related to proposals in Peeblesshire, particularly those for Peebles and Eshiels.  Opposition was also made to proposed housing sites at Netherbarns, Galashiels; Harmony Hall in Melrose; on land south of Darnlee in Darnick; and to sites in Ednam, near Kelso and Eddleston in Peeblesshire.  Some representations suggested that existing undeveloped sites allocated in the adopted local development plan should be removed from the new local development plan.  On the other side of the coin, 43 new sites were suggested by third parties for inclusion in the local development plan.  These sites are currently being examined.

Clearly, officers of the council will be continuing to progress the proposed LDP2 but it is a matter of conjecture as to when the Proposed LDP2 will be submitted to the council for approval.  Scottish Ministers have certainly put ‘the cat amongst the pigeons!’  What must be of most concern for the council is the fact that the Planning Bill, passed by Scottish Ministers on 21 June and expected to receive Royal Assent and pass into law by mid-July, in an effort to simplify the development planning process, abolishes strategic development plans (SDPs) and replaces them with regional spatial strategies (RSS), a long-term spatial strategy document.  Unlike SDPs, the RSS will not form part of the development plan.  LDPs must, however, take into account matters such as housing need, the availability of housing land, and the health and education needs of the local population.  Furthermore, before preparing a LDP, planning authorities must invite local communities to prepare a Local Place Plan (LPP) setting out their priorities for the development and use of land in the local area.  The LPP will not form part of the development plan but must be taken into account by the planning authority in the preparation of the LDP.

So, Scottish Borders Council will have a lot to think about in the forthcoming months and years.  How long will it take for the planning authorities in south-east Scotland to produce a regional spatial strategy (RSS)?  Can and will SBC progress its LDP2 in advance of the preparation of a RSS for south-east Scotland.  Will any LPPs be produced in advance of the finalisation of the Proposed LDP2 or will they have to wait until the next local development plan.  Watch this space!


Strategic Development Plan (SESplan 2) Update: May 2019

Scottish Ministers have put development planning in the south east of Scotland, including the Scottish Borders, into a state of confusion with the rejection of the Strategic Development Plan (SESplan 2), submitted in June 2017.  On 16 May, the Scottish Government’s Chief Planner announced that Scottish Ministers were not satisfied that the Plan had been properly informed by an adequate and timely Transport Appraisal and that it did not take sufficient account of the relationship between land use and transport.  It is the view of Scottish Ministers that the Plan does not properly acknowledge and address the region’s infrastructure constraints to support the spatial strategy for delivering housing land across the area.  It does not include sufficient information on the transport interventions required to support the spatial strategy.

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

 SESplan 2 sets out an ambitious vision to guide the growth of the South East Scotland Region over the next twenty years.  For the next 12 years (2018-2030), SESPlan proposes that most growth will be largely met by land already identified in existing and proposed local development plans.  In the Scottish Borders, existing towns provide the focus for retail, commercial and strategic employment opportunities.  The potential future expansion of the Borders Rail line to Hawick and beyond could provide further opportunities for growth and regeneration in the Central Borders and Hawick.  On the East Coast Main Line, a new station at Reston would provide settlements in Berwickshire with easier access to employment and education opportunities in Edinburgh and stimulate tourism in the area.  Dualling of the A1 and improvements to the A68 and A7 would improve journey times to and from England.

In relation to housing supply, SESplan 2 indicates that there is sufficient housing land supply to meet housing land requirement for the 2018-2030 period in the Scottish Borders based on the land supply set out in the Local Development Plan.  However, a step change in the level of house building is needed if housing supply targets are to be achieved and this may warrant the permitting of proposals for additional housing on sites not identified in the local development plan, subject to it being consistent with the spatial strategy of the development plan and a number of other criteria.  Additional housing land allocations are likely to be required to meet the housing land requirement for the period 2030-2038.  These will need to be made in new Local Development Plans.

The Examination of SESplan 2 by Reporters appointed by Scottish Ministers was undertaken in 2017/2018 and their report was submitted to Scottish Ministers on 20 July 2018.  The Reporters recommended a number of modifications to the Plan.  In relation to the spatial strategy, the Reporters recommended that the location of any additional sites to those identified in local development plans, that require to be identified for development in the period 2018-2030, should be in and around Edinburgh and along transport corridors.  In relation to Key Areas of Change in the Scottish Borders, the Reporters recommended that the Strategic Development Plan should give more emphasis to the fact that major flood schemes in Selkirk, Hawick and Galashiels will provide opportunities for growth and regeneration in the Central Borders.

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

SBC’s review of its adopted local development plan, to date, has been very much influenced by the recommendations of the Reporters in relation to the housing requirements of SESplan 2.  The Main Issues Report (MIR) relating to the new Scottish Borders Local Development Plan (LDP2) was published in November 2018 and has been the subject of wide consultation.  A report on the representations received is expected soon and it was proposed in the council’s Development Plan Scheme of March 2019 that the proposed LDP2 would be published in the autumn/winter of 2019/2020.  With the rejection of SESplan 2, this programme has been placed in doubt.  It will be interesting to see how the council intends to proceed.

Whilst Scottish Ministers have been deliberating on SESplan 2, the Planning (Scotland) Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 4 December 2017 proposes that Strategic Development Plans should be removed from the development plan system to be replaced by more proactive regional working partnerships.  So, the consequences of the rejection of SESplan 2 for the council’s new local development plan LDP2 remain uncertain.  It is open to the Strategic Development Planning Authority to prepare a new SESplan 2 but the implications of the Planning (Scotland) Bill complicate the matter.  We shall have to see what the planning authorities in South East Scotland decide to do.  The decision should raise considerable concern for the Scottish Borders Council in relation to the finalisation of its new local development plan.  Any delay would in its production would not be good news for developers or for the future development of the Scottish Borders Region.


Berwickshire County Planning in the 1960s and 1970s

The appointment of John Baillie, the County Planning Officer for Midlothian County, as planning consultant for the preparation of the county development plan ceased on 31 December 1960 with the submission of the development plan to the Secretary of State.  Somewhat reluctantly, the council agreed that T. D. Anderson, the County Planning Officer, would be unable to continue to deal with day-to-day development control matters and tackle any consequences from the development plan submission without additional staff.  The council agreed to the appointment of one planning assistant to deal with the processing of planning applications, approximately 200 per annum.  However, there was little response to successive advertisements for the post and   T. D. Anderson continued, alone, to deal with planning applications and related matters.

Objections to the development plan were received in relation to proposals for Eyemouth.  As a result, Planning Consultant, A.T. McIndoe was appointed in July 1963 to prepare an amendment to the Eyemouth Town Map to include harbour improvements and additional land for industry at Coldingham Road.  In response to the submission of the development plan, the Scottish Development Department requested that Areas of Great Landscape Value and Tourist Development Proposals, required by Circular 2/1961, should be included in the development plan.  T. D. Thomson of Coldingham, a tourism consultant, was appointed to produce a landscape and tourist development plan.  The county development plan would eventually be approved by the Secretary of State in February 1965 subject to the deletion of the AGLV designation that covered the whole county and the removal of a housing allocation at Lauder of land between the town and the proposed by-pass through the grounds of Thirlestane Castle.  The county council was asked to consider a reduced area for AGLVs covering specific areas such as the Lammermuirs, the coast, Lauderdale and the Tweed Valley around Scots View and Bemersyde.

Development control during the early 1960s continued to be undertaken by T. D. Anderson, the County Planning Officer, on his own.  As the number of applications increased, the committee agreed to delegate decisions on straight-forward applications to the County Planning Officer.  Eventually, in February 1965, a planning assistant was appointed to assist with the growing number of planning applications, which now exceeded 250 per annum.  During this time, there was increasing pressure for camping and caravan sites along the Berwickshire Coast, with developments at Eyemouth, Coldingham and Pease Bay.  Increasing visitor pressure at Coldingham Sands, and the resultant erosion of the sand dunes resulting from the proliferation of beach huts, prompted an examination of the measures that could be taken to protect the beach and dunes similar to those being undertaken by East Lothian County Council at Gullane.  Access to Cove Harbour also became an issue when the access road suffered damage from land-slips.  The Areas of Great Landscape and Tourist Development Plan, which designated several AGLVs, set out the policy on camping and caravan sites, and identified locations for new car park/picnic sites in the countryside and along the main routes through the county (the A1, A68 and A697), was approved in March 1966.

After 36 years’ service with Berwickshire County Council, twenty years as County Planning Officer, T. D. Anderson retired in July 1966 and Basil Knowles, a qualified planner and Fellow of the Royal Town Planning Institute, was appointed as his replacement and designated County Planning and Development Officer.  Basil Knowles, with a planning career stretching as far back as 1938, arrived from Shropshire (Salop) County Council, where he had been Assistant County Planning Officer.  At Berwickshire County Council, he was responsible for giving planning its rightful place in a county where the positive power of planning had never been fully understood.  With skill and imagination, he pioneered policies which showed how a rural county could, by its own efforts, check the downward spiral of depopulation and restore its confidence.

Basil Knowles quickly identified the issues that needed to be tackled at a time when economic and social change was driving changes in the planning system.  In a report to the Planning and Development Committee, which had now been separated from the Property and Works Committee, in September 1966, he set out his ideas for the future of the county; recommending:

  • a programme of advance factories in Eyemouth and Duns to kick-start additional employment; the first nursery factories would be constructed in Eyemouth and Duns in 1967, the Scottish Industrial Estates Corporation (SIEC) constructed the first advanced factory at Coldingham Road, Eyemouth in 1968.
  • a local authority housing programme to attract industry to the county;
  • the possibility of large-scale afforestation in the Lammermuir Hills to create employment;
  • road signage to promote scenic routes through the county, with car park/picnic sites at appropriate locations;
  • a coastal path along the Berwickshire coast from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Cockburnspath; and
  • a programme of amenity tree planting in towns and villages throughout the county.

On the appointment of Basil Knowles, the planning assistant, who had been appointed in February 1965 to assist T. D. Anderson with the growing number of planning applications, resigned his position and it would be June 1967 before a replacement, Robert Johnston, was found.  Nevertheless, policy reports were produced during 1966/1967 on the siting and design of new housing, the control of the development of caravan sites and the conservation of the Coldingham Bay/St. Abb’s area.  The Secretary of State approved the Landscape and Tourist Development Plan, as an amendment to the Development Plan, in January 1968.  The designation of the whole of the county as “Countryside” in terms of the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 opened the door for 75% grants for countryside projects such as Coldingham Bay and the provision of car park/picnic sites throughout the county.  The whole of the county, except the burghs of Coldstream, Duns and Eyemouth and the settlements of Chirnside and Earlston, was designated an “Area of Special Control” for the purpose of controlling the proliferation of advertisements in the countryside, such as advanced signs on the main arterial roads.  In March 1969, a number of towns and villages were designated as conservation areas, a by-pass for Ayton on the A1 was agreed with the Scottish Office and a plan for the redevelopment of Duns town centre was produced [a plan for Eyemouth town centre had been produced by A. T. McIndoe].

In June 1969, David Douglas was appointed Depute Director of Planning and Development to assist Basil Knowles on planning policy and economic development matters. Alistair Lorimer replaced Robert Johnston as planning assistant in October 1969 and the staff of the burgeoning department was expanded further by the appointment of a draughtsman.  The work of the Planning and Development Department continued to expand with involvement in the Eyemouth and Duns town centre redevelopments, a number of proposals for caravan sites and the expansion of existing sites in Eyemouth, Coldingham and Pease Bay, and car park/picnic site proposals at Renton Barns on the A1 and at Hexpath and Cambridge Crossroads on the A697.  During the early 1970s, the pressure on the Berwickshire coastline continued to increase, with a constant demand for additional caravan sites.  Cove Harbour would be purchased in 1971 and plans approved to repair the access road and pier, and convert the stores into toilets and a shelter.  In February 1972, the council agreed to purchase Coldingham Sands in order to control the increasing visitor pressure on the bay.

From 1970, attention was concentrated on the preparation of a rural strategy for Berwickshire, identifying locations for new industry and housing.  The ‘Draft Rural Policy for Berwickshire’ published in March 1972, aimed at stemming the decline in population and “achieving a quality of life for the population which will afford reasonable economic, physical, social, cultural and recreational opportunities in the county”, the objective being to restore confidence in the county and prove that well planned development can provide a rural society with the same opportunities as that of an urban society and retain the young and energetic population.  To utilise to the best advantage the limited economic resources available and exploit the potential of the county, it identified a number of settlement groups on which a range of facilities could be supported.  Each settlement group was related to a “growth point” where the main housing and employment opportunities would be concentrated.  The report proposed that detailed plans be prepared for each settlement group to identify opportunities for development.

Basil Knowles unexpectedly died in February 1973 and David Douglas was promoted to the post of County Planning and Development Officer.  He would continue the work of Basil Knowles in promoting the economic development of Berwickshire County.  The post of Depute Director was filled by Douglas Hope, who arrived from the Scottish Development Department where he had been engaged in producing guidance and advice on the new development plan system introduced by the Town and County Planning (Scotland) Act 1972.  An additional planning assistant, Alistair McLean, would be appointed to assist with the processing of planning applications, which now exceeded 350 per annum.

In the succeeding two years, a number of reports were prepared that would subsequently contribute to the policy making of the new Borders Regional Council.  A report on housing proposed private housing sites for some 300 private houses in a variety of settlements across the county.  A report on Housing and Industry proposed an extensive local authority housing programme in the burghs of Eyemouth, Duns and Coldstream to house incoming workers and land for industry.  Some 20 acres of land was purchased for industry at Acredale, Eyemouth and the former Station Yard in Duns was acquired for industrial development.  Advanced and nursery factories were constructed at Eyemouth, Duns and Coldstream and ELBA Growers, an agricultural co-operative constructed a major cold store at Eyemouth.  A study of Eyemouth Harbour proposed alterations to the harbour entrance and major development at Gunsgreen.  A report on Agriculture in Berwickshire examined how the pattern of agriculture might change in the future and how the local authority could assist this major employer in the county (20% of the employed population compared with 3% in Scotland as a whole).  Settlement plans were drawn up for Lauder, Chirnside and Greenlaw, to complement those produced for Eyemouth, Duns and Coldstream.  A detailed management plan was produced for Coldingham Bay.  From April 1974, attention was also concentrated on the route of the transmission lines across East Lothian and Berwickshire Counties from the proposed Torness Power Station.  A joint working group of officials would be established and this matter would cause friction between the two counties.  Consent for the power station was granted by the Secretary of State in March 1975 and formal consultation on the proposed 400Kv transmission lines commenced; an issue that would be taken up by the Borders Regional Council and Lothian Regional Council after May 1975.

As local government re-organisation drew closer, a report on population change in 1973-74 showed that the population of Berwickshire had increased for the first time in over 100 years (by 313 persons); a major achievement which the council considered was a result of its efforts to diversify the economy of the county through the development of industrial sites in Eyemouth, Duns and Coldstream and the attraction of industry and incoming workers.  These policies would be taken up by the new Borders Regional Council with the appointment of David Douglas as its Director of Planning and Development, the appointment of the Convener of Berwickshire County Council, Major J.M. Askew, as the Convener of the Regional Council and the appointment of the Chairman of the county’s Planning and Development Committee, Baillie Victor Parle, as the Chairman of the Regional Council’s Planning and Development Committee.



Selkirk County Planning in the 1960s and 1970s

The Quinquennial Review of the Selkirkshire County Development Plan was submitted to the Secretary of State in October 1964.  The policy of the review was “To bring to a halt, in the first instance, the continual and steady depopulation of the county and then by the introduction and provision of facilities to encourage new industries to develop within the burghs, and the existing industries to modernise and expand, in order to raise the population in a reasonable and realistic figure necessary to create a thriving industrial and commercial community within a balanced environment providing adequate housing and a full range of social, commercial and recreational facilities and at the same instance to protect the amenity and character of the area from despoilment”.

During the preparation of the Quinquennial Review, there was little fore-warning of the future downturn in the textiles industry in the Scottish Borders.  Indeed, there was a shortage of female labour, prompting efforts to attract male-employing industries to the area and build substantial rented (local authority) housing to attract and accommodate incoming workers.  The Galashiels Town Map proposed additional land for industry at Langhaugh and Netherdale, and additional housing in a number of locations, including Buckholm Corner, Blynlee, Mossilee/Hollybush, Wester and Easter Langlee, and Boleside.  The Selkirk Town Map allocated further industrial land alongside the A7 at Dunsdalehaugh, and land for housing at Fairfield, Sentry Knowe and the Haining (on the Green).  In relation to the A7 trunk road, the Quinquennial Review retained the proposal for a Selkirk By-pass and improvements both south and north of Selkirk, including a new road along the former Selkirk Branch railway line and new bridge over the Tweed.  In Galashiels, the route of the A7, from a proposed roundabout at Sunningdale, followed a line along Abbotsford Road, Albert Place and Bank Street, through property to the rear of High Street and Island Street to Wilderhaugh and a roundabout on Wood Street, above Leabrae, and then across a viaduct over the railway and the Gala Water to Buckholm Corner.  The Quinquennial Review was approved by the Secretary of State in January 1968.

During the early 1960s, the traditional industries continued to flourish.  In 1961, Yarrow Spinners extended their operation with the erection of a spinning mill in Selkirk.  Gardiners also expanded with the erection of a new tweed mill in Selkirk.  In 1966, Gardiners undertook further extensions, as did Laidlaw & Fairgrieve in Galashiels.  However, by the late 1960s, the textile sector began to shed labour and to aid the attraction of industry to the region, the Peebles, Roxburgh and Selkirk Joint Planning Advisory Committee was set up in December 1969 to promote the Central Borders.  A Development Office was established and a Development Officer, Alistair Bilton, was appointed.  Nursery factory units were built in Galashiels and Selkirk.  About this time, two entrepreneurs, Robert Currie, a process engraver in the printing industry, and Kenneth Mill, an electronics engineer, started up the first electronics company, Currie & Mill, manufacturing PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) in a modest building on the High Street in Galashiels.  After two years together, they split up, Kenneth Mill to found BEPI Electronics, which became established at Galabank Mill on Wilderhaugh.  Currie & Mill would become Exacta Circuits and establish a factory at Dunsdalehaugh in Selkirk.  It was from these two companies that many of the Borders electronic companies of the 1970s were descended; such as MEPD Met-Etch in Selkirk and Keltek in Kelso.  A broad range of other industries was also established at this time: Sprague (Electric) and Valerie Louthan (knitwear) at Netherdale, Galashiels; R.P. Adam (Arpal) initially at Netherdale, Galashiels and then Selkirk; Pye Electronics at Wilderhaugh, Galashiels.  In 1970, textile designer, Bernat Klein built his, award winning, design studio at High Sunderland, near Selkirk.

Whilst the Quinquennial Review of the Development Plan was being prepared, amendments were made to the existing development plan to allow a range of developments to proceed.  The first amendment, in 1963, related to the development of a 7 acre site at Fairfield in Selkirk for local authority housing.  Other amendments followed in the 1960s, including the allocation of playing fields at Netherdale, Galashiels for industry; the new bus station on Stirling Street in Galashiels; the redevelopment of Galashiels Market Square; new housing at Clovenfords; Wester and Easter Langlee, Galashiels; Sentry Knowe, Selkirk and within Gala Policies.  Housing redevelopment was concentrated in the Greenbank Street/Croft Street, Gala Park and Halliburton Place/Magdala Terrace areas of Galashiels.  A number of petrol filling stations were constructed in Galashiels.  TV masts were erected at Dryden, Ashkirk and Lindean, near Selkirk, to serve BBC and ITV respectively in the 1960s.  In 1970, planning permission was granted for Galashiels’ first supermarket, Coopers Finefare in Channel Street.  New swimming pools were built in Galashiels and Selkirk.

Other developments of note during this time include: the contentious cladding of the Capitol Cinema in Galashiels in 1971 [originally, the Playhouse when built in 1922, and the Capitol from 1959, the cinema was revamped with a bingo hall, discotheque, bar and restaurant and re-named the Kingsway in 1971; in 1995 it was sub-divided into four cinemas and renamed the Pavilion]; and the conversion of Philipburn House, Selkirk into an award winning hotel.  One of the last developments to be proposed prior to local government re-organisation in 1975 was the redevelopment of Galashiels Station Yard for industry and parking combined with a landscaped footpath corridor along the length of the railway line between Torwoodlee at the north-western boundary of the town and Tweedbank.  This proposal would be approved and implemented by the new Borders Regional council.

In response to the Central Borders Plan of 1968, the Galashiels Technical Working Party was established in 1970 with representatives from Selkirkshire County Council and Galashiels Town Council, the Scottish Development Department and Roxburgh and Berwickshire County Planning Departments to examine the growth potential of Galashiels.  Essentially, this working party was tasked with identifying the threshold capacity of the town rather than accommodate the population increase projected by the Central Borders Plan.  To some, it seemed that this was an opportunity to put forward an argument for development within Galashiels rather than at Tweedbank.  But the die had already been cast [the Secretary of State approved the Darnick (Tweedbank) Amendment to the Roxburgh County Development Plan in January 1968].

The Galashiels Technical Working Party examined the feasibility of alternative routes for the A7 through the town [neither the county council nor the town council were over-enthusiastic, about the route that had been imposed by the Scottish Development Department].  One serious alternative was to route the A7 along the now disused railway line from the northern boundary of the burgh to a point east of the town centre, joining Abbotsford Road near its junction with Tweed Road.  Alternatively, the route could continue along the railway line to Netherdale and, utilising the Selkirk Branch line, link with the A7 at Netherbarns.  It would also be possible to link this road with the Melrose Road via Winston Road or continue over the Tweed, utilising the railway bridge, through Tweedbank to Darnick [as an alternative to the route proposed in the Roxburgh County Council Darnick (Tweedbank) amendment to the development plan].  After lengthy consideration, the working party [reluctantly] came to the conclusion that there was no case for altering the already agreed route for the A7, which connected with the proposed Galafoot Bridge and route to Darnick.  However, the working party did consider that a new link road should be constructed along the railway line between Winston Road and Station Brae to relieve local traffic on the Melrose Road, a road which could be continued along Ladhope Vale to High Buckholmside (the A7).

The technical working party examined a number of housing sites stretching from Buckholm Corner in the north-west to the Langshaw Road in the south-east, including major sites at Mossilee and Hollybush, Gala Policies and Netherbarns.  Agreement was reached that future housing in Galashiels, in the period up to 1983 (the ten year period after publication of the report) should be concentrated in the Mossilee/Hollybush area with initial development at Kilnknowe on Wood Street.  Gala Policies provided the opportunity for some housing, the area around Gala House being suitable for a recreational park.  As regards industrial land, it was acknowledged that there was considerable scope to generate jobs within existing industrial areas, principally at Netherdale in Galashiels and at Dunsdalehaugh in Selkirk.  The site at Tweedbank would cater for considerable population increase.  Sites at Hollybush and Easter Langlee were identified as possible sites for industry in the longer term.

The Working Party report, published in January 1973 was, to some extent, overtaken by the re-organisation of local government in 1975 but it, nevertheless, formed an important input to the new development plan system of structure and local plans subsequently prepared by the Borders Regional Council.

Development Planning: the challenge of the 1960s

In the 1960s, development plans prepared under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947 were the subject of increasing criticism.  Because of the detail they contained, they tended to be inflexible and, although planning authorities were under an obligation to review them at five-yearly intervals, this rarely happened.  In the Scottish Borders, the Quinquennial Review of the Selkirk County Development Plan, approved in April 1955, was not submitted to the Secretary of State until May 1964 (and approved in January 1968).  Elsewhere, none of the county development plans for Berwickshire, Peeblesshire and Roxburghshire, approved in 1965, 1955 and 1965 respectively, were reviewed prior to local government re-organisation in 1975.  Development plans were largely updated by formal amendments, which also required the approval of the Secretary of State.  The obligation to afford objectors the opportunity of a hearing or public inquiry meant that a considerable period of time could elapse before such amendments were approved, as was the case with the Tweedbank amendment to the Roxburgh County Development Plan.  As well as being out-of-date, development plans were also criticised as being merely land use maps with little attention being paid to potential investment and how proposals would be implemented.  They also ignored the broader environmental, social and economic needs of the community.

Consequently, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in England and the Scottish Development Department in Scotland jointly set up the Planning Advisory Group (PAG) in May 1964 to examine ways of improving the development plan system.  The PAG Report of 1965 proposed a basic change in the structure of development planning which would distinguish between the policy and strategic decisions required to guide development in an area and the more specific land use allocations and actions required to implement proposals at the local level.  County Plans, which would require ministerial approval, would be primarily statements of policy with a key diagram (not a map) and would concentrate on the broad pattern of future development but would not detail specific land use allocations as did the existing town maps.  Local plans, which would not require ministerial approval but must conform with the policies set out in the county plan, would be prepared for settlements within the county and set out land allocations and detailed policies to guide the control of development.  They would also identify action areas where specific action was required.

The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1969 set out the provisions for a completely new system of development planning, based on the PAG recommendations, which required the preparation of structure plans and local plans.  Structure plans would set out the broad policy framework for an area.  With the freedom from including detail policies and proposals, it was hoped that strategic issues could be settled more quickly than in the past.  Local plans would comprise detailed planning policies and proposals and must conform to the structure plan approved by the Secretary of State.

In England, Wales and Scotland, there was also general agreement in the 1960s that the system of local government was in need of reform.  In Scotland, there were more than 400 local authorities; 33 county councils, 4 city corporations, 197 town councils and 196 district councils.  In May 1966, the Labour Government appointed a royal commission under the chairmanship of Lord Wheatley to review local administration in Scotland.  A similar commission on local government administration in England was set up in June 1966 under the chairmanship of Lord Redcliffe-Maud.  The Wheatley Commission reported in September 1969 and recommended a new system of regional and district councils.  The report divided Scotland into seven regions, sub-divided into 37 districts.  However, following publication of the report and consultations with local authorities, changes were made; the South East Region was sub-divided and both Fife and the Scottish Borders were separated from Edinburgh and the Lothians.  Changes were made to the number of districts in the Strathclyde Region and regional and district boundaries amended.  The new authorities, 9 regions, 53 districts and 3 island authorities were introduced in 1975 by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, which also established non-statutory community councils.  Regional councils would be responsible for strategic planning, social services, education, roads and transportation; district councils for housing, local planning and building control, refuse disposal and licensing.  In relation to town and country planning, Highland, Dumfries and Galloway, and the Borders Regional Councils, together with the three Island Councils; Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, were designated general planning authorities and given full planning powers.  In the other six regional councils, the town and country planning function was split between the region and constituent district councils.

It was hoped that the new system would avoid the delays of the past, reduce uncertainty and blight.  It was also hoped that they would be more responsive to public opinion.  Unfortunately, the proposed re-organisation of local government delayed the preparation of the ‘new style’ development plans.  The provisions of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1969, were not finally brought into force until 1975 with the enactment of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972 and the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, which required the production of structure plans for each of the nine regions and local plans for the constituent districts.

Meanwhile, in the Scottish Borders, following the publication of the Central Borders Plan in 1968 and encouraged by the Scottish Development Department, effort was concentrated on the establishment of joint working parties for individual burghs to examine the growth potential of the main towns in the central borders.  The Galashiels Technical Working Party was established in 1970 with representatives from Selkirkshire County Council, Galashiels Town Council and the Scottish Development Department.  In Roxburghshire, similar joint technical working parties were set up for Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso.   Berwickshire and Roxburghshire County Councils produced reports covering the landward parts of their areas setting out policies and proposals for the rural settlements.  Peeblesshire County Council concentrated on the tourism and recreational aspects of its area. Selkirkshire County Council examined the problems of small settlements within the Ettrick and Yarrow Valleys.  Subsequent posts will look at each of these reports.


Development Management: New Year 2019

During the calendar year 2018, the Scottish Borders Council received and determined almost 1600 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents (146) and applications for works to trees (76).  Of these applications, only some 58 were refused consent (3.6%), which is a much lower percentage than previous years.  Half of the 56 planning applications refused by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers were submitted for review to the Local Review Body (LRB).  During 2018, the LRB considered some 29 refusals of planning permission and decided to reverse the decision of the Chief Planning Officer, and grant planning permission, in 16 cases.  Of the 35 planning applications considered by the Planning and Building Standards Committee, only two were refused:  an application for the erection of 4 dwellinghouses at Elders Yard, Newtown St. Boswells (SBC Ref: 17/01342/PPP); and a wind farm at Barrel Law, Selkirk (SBC Ref: 17/01255/FUL).  Both refusals were the subject of appeals to Scottish Ministers; the former appeal was allowed and planning permission granted for the erection of the dwellinghouses, the latter appeal remains to be determined.

During 2018, a total of 12 appeals were submitted to the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA); four planning appeals, three enforcement notice appeals, two amenity notice appeals, one conservation area consent appeal, one tree works appeal and one appeal against the refusal to issue a certificate of lawful use.  Of the four planning appeals, two were upheld and planning permission granted (DPEA Refs: PPA-140-2070 & PPA-140-271), and two remain to be determined (PPA-140-2072 & PPA-140-2074). Two of the three enforcement notice appeals were dismissed (ENA-140-2011 & ENA-140-2012), one remains to be determined (ENA-140-2013).  One amenity notice appeal was dismissed (ANA-140-2000) and the other remains to be determined (ANA-140-2001).  The appeal against the refusal to issue of a certificate of lawful use was dismissed (CLUD-140-2002); the conservation area consent and tree works appeals remain to be determined (CAC-140-2000 & TWCA-140-2).

Planning applications must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless other material considerations suggest otherwise.  In the Scottish Borders, the development plan comprises the approved Strategic Development Plan for South-East Scotland 2013 (SESPlan) and the adopted Scottish Borders Local Development Plan 2016.  The Proposed Strategic Development Plan for South-East Scotland, SESPlan2, was submitted to Scottish Ministers in June 2017.  The Examination of SESPlan2 was completed by Reporters appointed by Scottish Ministers in May 2018 and their report was submitted to Scottish Ministers on 20 July 2018.  The response of the Scottish Ministers is awaited.  The Main Issues Report (MIR) relating to the replacement Scottish Borders Local Development Plan (LDP2) was published in November 2018 and was the subject of wide consultation, including a programme of afternoon drop-in sessions and evening workshops held across the Scottish Borders during November and December 2018.  The public consultation period ended on 31 January 2019 and the council anticipates that the local development plan LDP2 will be submitted to the council for approval in the autumn of 2019, following which the local development plan will be the subject of consultation and examination during 2020.  It is likely to be the Spring of 2021 before LDP2 is adopted and replaces the existing local development plan.


Tweedbank Development Update: January 2019

Some fifty years after the idea of a new village at Tweedbank, near Galashiels, was first raised, the final piece of the jigsaw has been put in place with the acquisition by Scottish Borders Council, on 6 December 2018, of the remaining part of Lowood Estate.  The area acquired extends to some 45 hectares (110 acres) between the Waverley railway line and the River Tweed.  The area is identified for a mix of residential and business development in the adopted local development plan.  The Tweedbank Masterplan prepared by Proctor Matthews Architects, considered by the council in January 2018, identifies the potential for some 300 houses and land for new business development.  This Masterplan will be taken forward in the new local development plan LDP2.  Although this purchase has been described as a bold development by the council’s Executive Member for Business and Development, maximising the benefits of the Borders Railway and creating hundreds of jobs, some councillors consider that the cost of the purchase (£9.6m) is a speculative and risky use of public money when budgets are constrained.  According to the council’s Executive Director, the Lowood project could cost £90m, including the cost of the purchase of the land, but it could potentially generate £150m of Gross Value Added (GVA).  It is estimated that 179 jobs could be created with a maximum of 173 construction jobs.  The overall Tweedbank Masterplan, which includes the refurbishment of the existing Tweedbank Industrial Estate, could cost £203m but would potentially generate £1.3b of GVA and create some 1,400 jobs.  It is considered that development on this scale is unlikely to be delivered without a comprehensive approach and public-sector pump priming; echoes of the philosophy behind the foundation of a new village at Tweedbank.

The idea for a new village at Tweedbank emerged in the mid-1960s.  The 1966 White Paper on the Scottish Economy 1965-1970 set out proposals to expand the economy of Scotland by providing new jobs and reducing the net loss of population experienced over the previous decades.  In relation to the Scottish Borders, the White Paper proposed that within the catchment area of Galashiels (a radius of 15 miles), which had a population of 73,000 persons in 1966, there should be a substantial and integrated programme of housing and new industry, the objective being to establish self-sustaining population growth.  A population increase of some 25,000 people over the succeeding 10-15 years (up to 1981) was proposed for the area comprising the three counties of Peeblesshire, Selkirkshire and Roxburghshire, excluding Kelso & District.

Professors Johnson-Marshall and Wolfe of Edinburgh University were appointed to prepare a plan for the increase in population of 25,000 people within the Galashiels Catchment Area.  Their report “The Central Borders: A Plan for Expansion”, commonly referred to as “The Central Borders Plan”, was published in two volumes in 1968.  The Central Borders Plan envisaged a “regional city” with the main settlements; Galashiels, Selkirk, Hawick and Jedburgh, sharing facilities and amenities.  In addition to the land allocated for housing in the main settlements in the existing County Development Plans, which could accommodate an additional 5,000 people, the Central Borders Plan incorporated a proposed new village at Tweedbank, where a population of 4,400 people was planned, and identified Newtown St. Boswells, which at the time had good road AND rail connections, as the location for a major settlement of some 10,000 population.

Excluding commitments in the existing County Development Plans, housing land for only an additional 1,700 people (out of the total of 25,000) was identified for Hawick, Selkirk and Jedburgh in the Central Borders Plan.  Not surprisingly, there was a strong body of opinion in Selkirkshire and Roxburghshire against the proposed expansion of Newtown St. Boswells.  Neither County Council showed any enthusiasm for major development at Newtown.  Selkirkshire County Council wanted to see more development in Galashiels and Selkirk, and Roxburgh County Council favoured a more modest increase of 3,000 people at Newtown St. Boswells with an enlarged share for Hawick and Jedburgh.

However, plans for Tweedbank were progressed; an amendment to the Roxburghshire County Development Plan was prepared in 1968 encompassing almost 300 acres of land, 190 acres of which was in the ownership of Lowood Estate (Mrs Constance Hamilton).  This amendment allocated land for housing and industry, playing fields, amenity open space and woodland and a new principal traffic route between Darnick and the A7 at Kingsknowes involving a new bridge over the Tweed.  As a result of objections from Mrs Constance Hamilton and others, public inquiries were held in December 1968 and March 1969.  The amendment to the county development plan was eventually approved by the Secretary of State in September 1969, following which a Masterplan for the development of approximately 1000 houses was prepared by the Scottish Special Housing Association (SSHA).

Land owned by five of the six owners was acquired voluntarily but Mrs Constance Hamilton declined to negotiate and a Compulsory Purchase Order was taken out.  Although this was also approved by the Secretary of State in September 1969, appeals to the Court of Session delayed the commencement of development until 1973.  The construction of the distributor road through Tweedbank commenced on 31 March 1973 and planning permission was granted for Phase I of the SSHA housing in June 1973 with house construction commencing in October 1973.  The new A68-A7 link over the River Tweed at Galafoot Bridge was opened in 1975.

SSHA would eventually build almost 300 houses in three phases over the next five years but the public sector housing programme came effectively to a halt in 1980 owing to a change in Government [the election of the Thatcher Conservative Government].  It was 1990 before Scottish Homes, formed in 1989, embarked on an expansion of housing at Tweedbank with a further 400 houses of varying tenure over a 6-year programme.  Eildon Housing would also build houses for rent and part-ownership.  Private housing would be built by Bett Homes in the 1980s and, more recently, by Barratt Homes.  By 2011, the population had reached 2,000 persons, considerably less than the 4,400 persons envisaged in 1968.

Within the centre of the village, a local centre was proposed comprising a primary school, community centre, shops, church hall and public house, situated close to a central lake formed in an existing swampy depression.  Tweedbank Primary School was opened in October 1976 [and was extended and refurbished in 2011] but there would be little progress on a village centre.  It was 1991 before a design/developer brief was prepared but efforts to find a developer floundered and little progress was made until 1995 when a block of three retail units was constructed.  The village centre now comprises a single local shop, a hairdressers and a bar/restaurant fronting the lake (originally described as the second lake in Scotland after the Lake of Menteith but now commonly known as Gun Knowe Loch).  Local offices of the Scottish Government’s Agriculture and Rural Economy Division are located close by.  A newly refurbished community centre is housed in the old Tweedbank Farm.  Lowood Mains houses a number of craft workshops.  A large area of playing fields and open space now includes an all-weather running track, an Astroturf football pitch, an indoor bowling club and sports complex.

Approximately 30 acres of land was allocated for industry in 1968, which it was estimated would accommodate approximately 500,000 sq.ft. [46,000 sq.m.] of floorspace and provide some 700 jobs.  The Scottish Development Agency (SDA) would be the prime mover in the development of the industrial estate, building both advance factories and bespoke units.  By the late 1980s, the SDA had built eleven blocks of industrial units of varying size, providing a total floor-space of some 120,000 sq. ft. occupied by tenants such as Hill Robinson Thread Co. Ltd., Tweedbank Circuits, Peri-dent Ltd., Magnet and Sprague Electric (UK) Ltd.  The Borders Regional Council built smaller workshop units (Eildon Mill).  In 1988, the Regional Council serviced 4.6ha of land on the north side of Tweedbank Drive and established Tweedside Park.  The first occupant was Radio Borders in January 1990.  They would be followed by Barbour, who moved from a smaller unit in Newcastleton, in 1996 and the Scottish Public Pensions Agency in 2001.  The Barbour factory closed in 2008, to be occupied by Plexus, an electrical wholesaler, until 2016.  The unit is now empty.

The SDA had begun to sell-off units to sitting tenants at Tweedbank from 1987 and in March 1990, the SDA sold substantial parts of its property holdings, including all land and buildings at Tweedbank, to Caledonian Land plc.  The Borders Regional Council made known its concerns to little effect.  The following year, the SDA was transformed into Scottish Enterprise, which established new local enterprise companies (LECs).  The Borders LEC, Scottish Borders Enterprise, was launched in April 1991.  Although not involved in building advanced factories, the LEC still had a role in providing business premises, such as building or converting existing buildings tailored to the needs of individual companies, environmental improvements and training.

Aggmore, a Real Estate Fund Manager, acquired the former SDA land/factory holdings in 2003, after a period of stagnation, and carried out various improvements.  By this time, manufacturing units had been converted to warehousing, with tenants such as Securicor, DHL, Plumbase and Plumbstore.  Electrical and telecoms firm Qube GB were attracted to the estate.  A significant part of the Tweedbank Industrial Estate is still understood to be owned by Aggmore.  The remainder comprises a mix of owner-occupied units and a tenanted unit (Eildon Mill) owned by Scottish Borders Council.

However, the industrial estate is suffering from an ageing and increasingly sub-standard stock of buildings and the size and layout of the buildings and related loading/parking areas are not consistent with modern requirements.  Four council sites, two on the industrial estate and two situated on the north side of Tweedbank Drive have been identified for development/redevelopment.  Tweedbank Industrial Estate has been designated a Simplified Planning Zone and associated Supplementary Guidance has been approved by the council to safeguard land and buildings for business uses.  Work on Supplementary Guidance for the Lowood Estate is to commence early in 2019 to be completed by the end of 2020.  A marketing and development strategy is to be developed in parallel.  Time will tell whether the acquisition of Lowood Estate is a prudent purchase or whether it will prove to be a ‘White Elephant’.  However, it should be remembered that the original purchase of Tweedbank in the 1970s was questioned in some quarters but I think all would agree that, 45 years later, albeit the population and employment projections have been shown to be over-optimistic, the project has been an overwhelming success.  Let us hope that we will be saying the same about this latest purchase in 20 years time.