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.

 

 

The Central Borders: A Plan for Expansion 1968

The population of the Scottish Borders declined throughout the 1950s and 1960s, particularly in the rural areas.  The population of the four counties, together, fell by some 10,000 people between 1951 and 1971 (from 107,575 to 97,464), although the population of the burghs remained fairly stable with small increases in Peebles, Galashiels, Kelso and Eyemouth.  The population of Berwickshire declined by almost 4,100 people between 1951 and 1971 (from 25,068 to 20,962), that of Roxburghshire by 3,600 (from 45,557 to 41,959), that of Peeblesshire by 1,500 (from 15,226 to 13,675) and that of Selkirkshire by 900 (from 21,724 to 20,868).  Thus, by 1971, the population of the four counties had decreased by some 19,000 persons from its high point of 116,500 one hundred years previously.  Government intervention would be required to arrest this decline!

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.  The Borders, along with South-West Scotland, North-East Scotland and the Highlands and Islands, were the subject of special studies by the Scottish Economic Planning Board; these were areas that were essentially rural in character and dependent on agriculture, where the growth of other employment had not been sufficient to offset the loss of jobs in agriculture and a decline in population.  The study of the Borders covered an area encompassing the counties of Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire, the Langholm District of Dumfriesshire and the northern part of Northumberland, including Berwick-upon-Tweed.

For the “Western Area” (the counties of Peebles, Selkirk and Roxburgh, excluding Kelso & District, together with Langholm & District in Dumfries County), the study concluded that without the provision of a range of employment opportunities, especially for men, the heavy outward migration of people of working age would continue, with all the consequent effects on existing industry, on the structure of the population and on the standard of service, social and cultural facilities.  The White Paper proposed that within the catchment area of Galashiels (a radius of 15 miles), which had a population of 73,000 persons, 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 1976-1981) was proposed for the area comprising the three counties of Peeblesshire, Selkirkshire and Roxburghshire, excluding Kelso & District.  Growth would be concentrated on Galashiels, in the first instance, to produce a geographic, economic, social and cultural focus for the Central Borders.  In the “Eastern Area” (Kelso & District, Berwickshire County, Berwick-upon-Tweed Borough and the northern part of Northumberland), where the economy was predominantly agriculture based, growth should be concentrated on Berwick-upon-Tweed.

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 the 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.  Approximately four-fifths of the proposed growth of 25,000 people was thus located within a central corridor stretching from Galashiels to Newtown St. Boswells.  Industrial development would be concentrated within the areas zoned for industry in the existing towns, notably Hawick and Galashiels, in the first instance, with new industry at St. Boswells (Charlesfield) in the longer term.  Other proposals included a new District General Hospital between Galashiels and Melrose and town centre improvements in Hawick, Galashiels, Jedburgh and Peebles.

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.  These Burgh Councils were not happy.  There was also 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.  None of the County Development Plans were amended to reflect the recommendations put forward in the Central Borders Plan.  Instead, working parties were established to examine the potential of larger-scale growth in Galashiels and Hawick.  The Galashiels Working Party Report, published in 1973, recommended that additional land at Mossilee, with a capacity of over 1,000 dwellings (3,500 people), be allocated for housing in a comprehensively updated Selkirkshire County Development Plan, which would also include trunk road improvements through Galashiels and the construction of a new road along the, now closed, railway line.  The Hawick Working Party Report, published in early 1974, proposed a population increase for the town of some 4,900 persons, far beyond that recommended in the Central Borders Plan.  Clearly, the view from Hawick was that the town’s status as the largest town in the Borders must be preserved.  Working parties for Jedburgh and Kelso, similarly, recommended significant allocations of land for housing and industry in their respective burghs.

Contrary to expectations, the population of the Central Borders continued to decline in the period up to 1971.  The population of Roxburghshire fell from 45,500 in 1951 to 42,000 in 1971; that of Selkirkshire fell from 21,700 to 20,800.  Hawick and Jedburgh lost population, whilst that of Selkirk and Galashiels remained stable.  Only Kelso experienced significant growth.  There was significant population decline in the landward areas.

The Central Borders Plan did not cover Berwickshire, except for Earlston and Lauder, or Peeblesshire.  In Berwickshire, the population fell by over 3,000 persons to 20,600 in 1971.  It would be 1972 before a draft ‘Rural Policy for Berwickshire’ would set out a more optimistic view of the future for the county than that expressed in the development plan, approved in 1965, and would identify settlements for expansion.  In Peeblesshire, the county population fell from 15,200 in 1951 to 13,700 in 1971.  Tourism was seen as the basis for future economic growth rather than industrial development, and a ‘Plan for Tourist Development Proposals’ was approved in 1969, including proposals for a range of picnic sites and car parks/viewpoints.

The next post will summarise the state of the Region on the eve of local government re-organisation in 1975, when the four counties of Peeblesshire, Selkirkshire, Roxburghshire and Berwickshire, together with a small part of Midlothian (incorporating the Gala Water valley villages of Stow, Fountainhall and Heriot) would be amalgamated to form the Borders Region and the Borders Regional Council would become the unitary planning authority for the whole of the Region.

 

County Planning in the 1940s and 1950s: Peeblesshire County Council

Peeblesshire County Council pre-empted the enactment of the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943 by appointing its first Town Planning Committee in December 1940.  However, this committee undertook little business until September 1942 when consideration was given to the carrying out of a survey of the area in connection with the post-war planning of the county.  Frank Mears, who would produce the Regional Survey and Plan for Central and South-East Scotland, published in 1946, and who was undertaking a survey of Peebles for the town council in connection with its post-war housing scheme, was approached and agreed to undertake a survey of the county.  Work commenced in January 1943; the survey and preliminary town plans were to be completed within one year at a cost of £850.

By early 1944, although factual surveys of Peebles, Innerleithen, Walkerburn and other villages had been carried out, considerable dis-satisfaction was being expressed by the Town Planning Committee at the lack of any definite proposals for the county.  A great deal of time had been taken up up-dating the OS base maps and a lack of transport was inhibiting survey work.  In April 1944, Mr. Mottram, the architect carrying out the survey work on behalf of Frank Mears, was provided with a 7hp Austin car and the Regional Petroleum Officer was approached to sanction a supply of petrol!  It would be another year before the survey of the county was completed and preliminary proposals set out for post-war housing in Peebles.

In February 1944, following the coming into effect of the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943, Mr. A Anderson, County Surveyor, was appointed Planning Officer to deal with the expected rush of applications for interim development certificates.  There was a rash of applications for the erection of pre-fabricated houses in Peebles and Innerleithen by the respective town councils.  A preliminary report submitted by Frank Mears at the end of 1944 identified housing and industrial sites in Peebles and Innerleithen.  Kingsmeadows was identified as the area for a major expansion of housing in Peebles.  A report on housing in the landward area to sustain farming after the end of the war identified the requirement for 446 houses to meet the needs of agricultural workers and an ageing population.  Swedish timber houses were erected in a number of locations; Broughton, Skirling, Romanno Bridge, Lamancha and Eddleston.

Following the publication of the Central and South-East Scotland Study, by Frank Mears, in May 1946, consideration was given to the establishment of a Joint Planning Advisory Committee for the Borders.  It was generally felt by Peeblesshire members that Peeblesshire was geographically and economically more closely related to Edinburgh and the Lothians than the Central Borders.  In fact, Frank Mears suggested that there was an opportunity for the establishment of a joint planning department with Midlothian County Council, where John S Baillie had been appointed county planning officer, but the council did not consider this necessary at this time.

Probably due to his commitments with the Central and South-East Scotland Study, it was May 1947 before Frank Mears finally produced his report and plan for Peeblesshire County, which was publicised in the local press and the subject of consultation with Peebles and Innerleithen town councils.  Over the next 6 months, wide-ranging comments were received from Peebles and Innerleithen town councils and from Broughton and West Linton parishes.

Following elections in May 1948, and the enactment of the new Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947, which introduced wide-ranging planning powers to control development, including the requirement to prepare development plans, the relevance of the Mears’ plan was questioned.  Considerable doubts were expressed about a number of proposals in Peebles and Innerleithen with questions over the proposed route of a by-pass for Peebles and the siting of new housing and industrial sites; a by-pass for West Linton and the need for a rigid control of holiday huts, shacks and caravans in the countryside.  As planning applications started to be received, thoughts turned to staffing and the council reluctantly decided in December 1948 to enter into an arrangement with Midlothian Council whereby the staff of that council’s planning department would carry out planning work for Peeblesshire County Council under the direction of John Baillie, the County Planning Officer.  Initially, all decisions on planning applications were considered by the Town Planning Committee with Baillie Cleland presiding.  However, by February 1949, decisions on planning applications were delegated to the County Clerk where the County Surveyor (A. Anderson) and the County Planning Officer (J.S. Baillie) had no objections.  The planning department of Midlothian County Council took over the responsibility of producing the development plan survey and report.

Major areas of housing development commenced in the early 1950s at Kingsmeadows in Peebles and at the Pirn in Innerleithen, including the provision of new schools.  The distribution of holiday huts, shacks, bus bodies and caravans throughout northern Peeblesshire was the subject of a major report resulting in the establishment of a joint Planning and Landward Health and Housing sub-committee to consider future policy.  Applications for the resumption of sand and gravel working at various locations in the county, such as Shiphorns Farm and Nether Fall near Eddleston, also provided a challenge for the Town Planning Committee.

Work on the development plan progressed through 1949, 1950 and 1951, and in March 1952 a draft development plan, which featured major road proposals for Peebles, was exhibited in the town.  The development plan proposed a by-pass in a 60ft wide corridor on the town side of the East Station from Northgate to Innerleithen Road much to the consternation of the Railway Executive.  Peebles West Station, on the south side of the Tweed, had closed to passengers in June 1950 although goods trains continued to run to Broughton and Symington until June 1954.  The West Station Goods Depot, connected by the seven arch skew bridge over the Tweed to Peebles East Station, continued in use until August 1959 and Peebles East Station continued in use until February 1962.  The town council preferred a route on the Venlaw Bank side of the railway.  Eventually, a compromise solution comprising a one-way road system on the town side of the East Station was agreed.  It was June 1953 before the development plan report was finalised and, following consultations with Midlothian County Council on matters of joint interest, it was submitted to the Secretary of State on 14 October 1953.

The Peeblesshire County Development Plan was approved on 23 December 1955.  It was based on a 1951 county population of little more than 15,000 persons and anticipated little change in population over the subsequent 20 year period.  Land for housing to accommodate an additional 500 persons in Peebles and 500 persons in Innerleithen and Walkerburn, together, was proposed.  In Peebles, land was allocated for housing on Edderston Road and at Kingsmeadows.  Land for light industrial development was identified at South Park, near the Cattle Market, and on Rosetta Road, north of the built-up area.  In Innerleithen, the Pirn site was identified for local authority housing and included a site for a new primary school.  Land south of the railway line was allocated for light industry.

Major road proposals included by-passes for Carlops, West Linton and Dolphinton on the A702 and for Romanno Bridge on the A701.  On the A72, a major new road was proposed by-passing Innerleithen and Walkerburn to the south.  In Peebles, itself, a number of significant road improvements had been debated and discounted but the plan retained the proposed widening of the west end of the High Street/Cuddy Bridge/Old Town and part of Northgate, involving the demolition of a number of frontage properties.

In the landward area, the main policy issues related to mineral working and the hut encampments.  A number of sites for sand and gravel working, roadstone quarrying, peat working and open cast coal-mining in the northern part of the county were identified.  Hut encampments at Carlops, West Linton, Eddleston and Peebles were identified for improvement and a policy of allowing individual huts in the countryside subject to there being no nuisance or detriment to the amenity was established. During the 1950s, planning permission for single holiday huts and caravans in the countryside were granted planning permission for a limited period of 5 years but owner/occupiers were encouraged to re-site them on recognised sites at Carlops, Eddleston and Peebles.  Enforcement action was taken against the numerous bus bodies (single and double-deckers) used as holiday accommodation.

As car ownership and car touring increased during the 1950s, there was a plethora of applications for petrol filling stations both in the urban areas of Peebles and Innerleithen and in the countryside on the main road routes.  Most applications were refused but planning permissions were granted for the ubiquitous ‘Milk Bar’ on a number of main routes through the county.  Advertisement applications on garages, hotels and public houses, including illuminated garage signs proliferated.  Advanced signs for hotels in the countryside proved most contentious.  The whole county outwith the two burghs was designated an Area of Special Advertisement Control.

As the 1960s dawned, in the landward area, mineral working, hut encampments and tourist-related developments would be the main issues facing the council.  In Peebles, its increasing attraction as a retirement and commuter town would bring pressures for housing development south of the river, leading to conflict with those who wished to conserve the town’s historic character.

 

Development Planning update: December 2018

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;
  • Creation of Local Place Plans produced by a community body; and
  • Compulsory training for councillors discharging planning duties.

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.  However, Scottish Ministers are opposed to the creation of a third party right of appeal.

Stage 2 of the Planning Bill’s scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament concluded on 14 November.  Over 300 amendments were voted on by the Local Government and Communities Committee.  Amendments have been made to the definition of the ‘purpose of planning’ to read “to manage the development and use of land in the best long term public interest and a statutory post of “Chief Planning Officer” has been introduced for all Scottish planning authorities.  However, several areas of the Bill remain unclear: Strategic Development Plans have been retained, to be prepared on a 5 year cycle whilst Local Development Plans and the National Planning Framework will be on a 10 year cycle.  Interestingly, compulsory training for councillors discharging planning duties has been removed, as have all the provisions relating to planning performance.  No amendments attempting to change the planning appeals system were successful.

Stage 3 of consideration of the Bill will commence early in 2019.  Stage 3 is the final stage and further Amendments may be tabled but the Presiding Officer of the Parliament has discretion to decide which, if any, are admissible.  Issues that have been debated and concluded are unlikely to be considered again.  At the conclusion of stage 3, Parliament will vote on the Bill.

The Proposed Strategic Development Plan for South-East Scotland, SESPlan, was submitted to Scottish Ministers in June 2017.  The Examination of the Proposed Strategic Development Plan was completed by Reporters appointed by Scottish Ministers in May 2018 and their report was submitted to Scottish Ministers on 20 July 2018.  It was published on the DPEA website on 24 July.  The Reporters considered twenty-five unresolved issues and have recommended a number of modifications to the Plan.  The response of the Scottish Ministers is awaited.

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, including a programme of afternoon drop-in sessions and evening workshops held across the Scottish Borders.  This programme concluded with a drop-in session and workshop in Hawick on 13 December.  The MIR is available online at www.scotborders.gov.uk/ldp2mir.  Hard copies are available to view at Council Headquarters at Newtown St. Boswells during normal office hours and at all Council Contact Centres and Libraries.  The public consultation period continues until 31 January 2019.  Remember, if you don’t make your views known, they can’t be considered.

 

 

Local Development Plan 2: Main Issues Report 2018

As detailed in my September 2018 post, Scottish Borders Council approved the Main Issues Report (MIR) for the review of the Local Development Plan on 30 August 2018.  The MIR has now been published and is available online at www.scotborders.gov.uk/ldp2mir.  Hard copies are available to view at Council Headquarters at Newtown St. Boswells during normal office hours and at all Council Contact Centres and Libraries.  The public consultation period continues until 31 January 2019.

The MIR identifies the key development and land use issues which the new local development plan (LDP2) must address and sets out preferred options for tackling these issues.  Key issues include:

  • regeneration of town centres;
  • opportunities for growing the economy;
  • housing land provision;
  • employment land provision;
  • delivery of infrastructure;
  • delivering sustainability and addressing climate change; and
  • promotion of quality building design;

Public participation and community engagement is a key part of the development plan process.  The MIR and the accompanying Environmental Report has now been formally advertised in the local press and there will be wide consultation with all key agencies, neighbouring authorities and community councils, local organisations and businesses.  A programme of afternoon drop-in sessions and evening workshops has been organised across the Scottish Borders at the venues below:

  • Newcastleton, Village Hall: 13 November (drop-in session, 2.00-6.00pm);
  • Kelso, Sainsbury’s foyer: 15 November (drop-in session, 2.00-5.00pm);
  • Kelso, Town Hall: 15 November (workshop 6.00-8.00pm);
  • Selkirk, 1 Tower Street/pop-up shop: 19 November (drop-in session, 2.00-5.30pm);
  • Eyemouth, Co-op, High Street: 21 November (drop-in session, 2.00-5.00pm);
  • Eyemouth, Community Centre: 21 November (workshop, 6.00-8.00pm);
  • Peebles, Burgh Hall, High Street: 26 November (drop-in session, 2.00-5.00pm);
  • Peebles, Burgh Hall, High Street: 26 November (workshop, 6.00-8.00pm);
  • Duns, Council Chambers, Newtown Street: 27 November (drop-in session, 2.00-5.00pm);
  • Duns, Council Chambers, Newtown Street: 27 November (workshop, 6.00-8.00pm);
  • West Linton, Village Centre: 28 November (drop-in session, 2.00-6.00pm);
  • Galashiels, Tesco foyer: 29 November (drop-in session, 2.00-5.00pm);
  • Galashiels, Transport Interchange: 29 November (workshop, 6.00-8.00pm);
  • Newtown St. Boswells, Council Chambers, Council HQ: 12 December (workshop, 6.00-8.00pm);
  • Hawick, Morrisons foyer: 13 December (drop-in session, 2.00-5.00pm);
  • Hawick, Heritage Hub, Kirkstile: 13 December (workshop, 6.00-8.00pm);

No booking is required for the afternoon drop-in sessions but the council asks that people wishing to attend the evening workshops let the local plans team know by contacting localplan@scotborders.gov.uk or ringing 01835 826671.  Remember, if you don’t make your views known, they can’t be considered.

 

Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP): September 2018

The council’s Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) was adopted, originally, in 2001 and has been updated by a series of Habitat Action Plans produced between 2003 and 2010.  The LBAP forms the basis for the council’s Supplementary Planning Guidance for Biodiversity, approved in November 2006, and provides guidance on the implementation of policy EP3: Local Biodiversity, in the adopted Local Development Plan.  An updated LBAP, which has been prepared to take account of changes in national policy, was approved by the Planning and Building Standards Committee of Scottish Borders Council on 3 September 2018.

The updated LBAP is organised around the priority themes of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (SBS), which was amended in 2013 in response to both the UN Convention on Biological Diversity targets set in 2010, to halt biodiversity loss and restore the natural environment to health, and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2020.  The SBS themes outline six steps for nature to achieve the 2020 challenge:

  • Ecosystem restoration;
  • Investment in natural capital;
  • Quality greenspace for health and education benefits;
  • Conserving wildlife in Scotland;
  • Sustainable management of land and freshwater; and
  • Sustainable management of marine and coastal ecosystems.

The updated LBAP takes account of the challenge of climate change, which may disrupt our ecosystems and their ability to provide beneficial services such as water flow regulation to reduce flooding, improvement to water quality, sequestration of carbon on peatlands and woodlands and pollinating services to help food production.  The LBAP seeks to help address the key pressures identified in the SBS: pollution, land use intensification and modification, spread of invasive species and wildlife disease, lack of recognition of the value of nature, disconnection with nature and marine exploitation.  A set of actions has been developed focussed around the six themes set out in the SBS, for delivery within the period 2018-2028 with some actions prioritised for delivery within 5 years.  By updating the LBAP, the council hopes to demonstrate that it is seeking to put in place good practice, working with its partners, to meet its duties in relation to biodiversity and climate change.  The updated LBAP will provide up-to-date and relevant guidance on how ecosystems can be valued and assessed as part of policy development in the local development plan.

The updated LBAP will be the subject of public consultation in parallel with the consultations on the recently approved Main Issues Report (MIR) prepared to identify the key issues to be addressed in the new local development plan LDP2).  The updated LBAP will ultimately form proposed Supplementary Guidance in the new local development plan (LDP2).  Biodiversity may seem, to many, to be a rather bewildering subject but protecting and maintaining the natural environment, habitats and wildlife is essential for our future on planet earth.  We can all play our part so get involved in the forthcoming discussions on the Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP).

Local Development Plan 2: Main Issues Report, September 2018

Scottish Borders Council approved the Main Issues Report (MIR) for the review of the Local Development Plan on 30 August 2018.  The new Local Development Plan (LDP2) will replace the adopted Local Development Plan 2016.  It will guide future development for the period 2021 to 2026.  The MIR is not a draft version of the LDP2 but a consultation document which sets out the key issues for consideration.  It draws together the findings of the Call for Sites from potential developers, the results of a number of public events and workshops held in 2017, and consultations with statutory bodies and other council departments.  It takes account of national planning requirements and the strategy and policies in the latest Strategic Development Plan (SESplan2), which has recently been the subject of Examination by Reporters from the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA).  Their recommendations have been submitted to Scottish Ministers and a decision on their recommendations is expected by the end of 2018.

The Main Issues Report (MIR) focusses on the issues to be addressed in the new local development plan and sets out the council’s proposed and alternative approaches to planning and development under the following headings:

  • Vision, aims and spatial strategy;
  • Growing the economy;
  • Planning for housing;
  • Supporting town centres
  • Delivering sustainability and climate change agenda;
  • Regeneration
  • Settlement maps and
  • Planning policy issues.

According to the MIR, the population of the Scottish Borders will increase from an estimated 115,020 in 2017 to 116,777 by 2026.  There will be a marked increase in the proportion of the population over 65 years old, with a 31% increase in the number of people aged 75 and older, which will have an increasing impact on health, housing and social care provision.  Based on the population projections, additional housing will be required to address the needs of the older population and the growth in smaller households (those of one or two persons).

The main employment sectors in the Scottish Borders are health and social work, retail, construction, education, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and public administration.  The Scottish Borders continues to rely on traditional rural activities focussed on agriculture, forestry and fishing.  In terms of industrial activity, there is an adequate supply of employment land in most parts of the Scottish Borders but there is a continued low take-up through development.  Nevertheless, there is a recognised need to allocate further employment land within the Peebles area and in Galashiels.  The provision of high amenity business land in the Central Borders is seen as essential to capitalise on the investment in the Borders Railway.  The council continues to support the promotion of the line extending to Carlisle as well as an improved service for Berwickshire with a rail halt at Reston.  In addition to transport, digital connectivity remains vital to the future development of the Borders and it is critical that the region benefits from maximising the provision of Full Fibre Connectivity to businesses and the wider community.

The role of town centres is changing and vacancy rates continue to increase.  In the Scottish Borders, retail vacancy rates and performance are patchy.  Measures need to be considered to keep town centres in the Scottish Borders viable and vibrant.

Infrastructure provision will be required to enable future development.  New housing allocations can also put a strain on education provision.  However, given the limited number of additional houses required within the LDP2 period, it is not envisaged that this should be an insurmountable problem, except perhaps in the Peebles catchment.

Delivering sustainable development and ensuring a high quality of design for all developments are key requirements of Scottish Planning Policy and the LDP2 must reflect these requirements.  LDP2 must also promote a low carbon future and help the Scottish Government achieve climate change targets.  It must promote economic stability and growth whilst protecting the built and natural intrinsic values of the Scottish Borders.

The Strategic Development Plan (SESPlan) requires strategic growth in the Scottish Borders to be directed to three growth areas: the Central Borders, the Western Borders (centred on Peebles) and Berwickshire.  The Central Borders growth area focusses on Galashiels, Melrose, Earlston, Kelso, Jedburgh, Hawick and Selkirk.  It is the primary area for growth within the Scottish Borders; it is at the centre of the roads network and served by the Borders railway.  In the Western Borders, Peebles is attractive to prospective house builders but potential flood risk issues and the need for a second bridge over the River Tweed prior to any further land being released for housing on the south side of the river, limit options for development.  In Berwickshire, growth is focussed on Duns and Eyemouth.

In relation to growing the economy, the Blueprint for the Border Railway seeks to maximise employment opportunities along the railway corridor.  A masterplan has been prepared for Tweedbank, including the Lowood Estate, which offers a range of development opportunities.  A masterplan has also been prepared for Galashiels town centre, which outlines a number of potential redevelopment opportunities.  The Hawick Action Plan identifies a range of opportunities to develop and improve Hawick as a place for working, living and visiting.  One of the main challenges is to find new employment land for business and industry in the vicinity of Peebles because of topographical constraints, flood risk issues, traffic congestion issues and the need for a new bridge to allow development south of the Tweed.  An independent study has identified site options which are set out in the MIR.

Public engagement is a key part of the development plan process.  The MIR and the accompanying Environmental Report will be formally advertised in the local press and will be made available for a consultation period of 12 weeks.  It will be placed on the council’s website and made available for inspection at all public libraries and council Contact Centres.  There will be wide consultation with all key agencies, neighbouring authorities and community councils, local organisations and businesses.  It is proposed to hold a series of ‘public surgeries’, which will include an exhibition, across the Scottish Borders.

So keep an eye out for the announcements (and follow this website).  Remember, if you don’t make your views known, they can’t be considered.

It will be the autumn of 2019 before the proposed new local development plan (LDP2) is completed.  It will then be the subject of consultation before submission to Scottish Ministers.  Any unresolved representations will be the subject of Examination by a Scottish Government Reporter from the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA), probably during the summer of 2020.  The conclusions and recommendations of the Reporter must be taken into account before the local development plan is adopted by Scottish Borders Council.  It is anticipated that the new Local Development Plan (LDP2) will be adopted by the summer of 2021.  Once adopted, LDP2 will replace the current Local Development Plan, adopted on 12 May 2016.