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  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  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 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.

County Planning in the 1940s and 50s: Roxburghshire County Council

Roxburghshire County Council established its Planning Advisory Committee in February 1944 to deal with the first applications for planning permission under the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943.  The Duke of Buccleuch was elected its first Chairman, with the committee advised by the County Clerk and County Architect.  John A.W. Grant, Architect/Planner of Edinburgh was engaged to prepare a planning scheme for the county.  Under the 1943 Act, the Department of Health expected planning applications to be dealt with within 14 days; there was no such thing as neighbour notification or public consultation of any kind, except that town councils (Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso) were consulted on applications within their areas.  During the 1940s, large-scale housing schemes proposed by the town councils, such as at Silverbuthall and Burnfoot in Hawick and at Headrig in Jedburgh, were approved with little fuss, and with little planning advice other than that obtained from the County Surveyor, County Architect and County Sanitary Inspector.

A major issue for Roxburgh County Council was the future of the Charlesfield Bomb Factory site, near St. Boswells, built in 1942.  It was one of only two factories in Britain producing incendiary bombs and at its peak employed 1,300 people and produced over 1 million bombs a month.  Production ceased in 1945 and it became a Royal Navy Armaments Depot to store small arms and guns.  In 1947, it still employed over 170 male workers but both the Hawick and Galashiels Trades Councils were concerned about its future and campaigned to secure it as an industrial site.  However, it continued to be used as a storage, maintenance and repair facility for the Admiralty, employing about 100 workers (male and female), until the 1960s.

The Regional Survey and Plan for Central and South-East Scotland prepared by Sir Frank Mears, and published in 1946, recommended the establishment of a joint committee of local authorities based in a new regional hub at St. Boswells/Newtown St. Boswells where offices, a new hospital, an agricultural college, student accommodation and housing would be developed.  Industrial development would be concentrated in the existing burghs but the Charlesfield munitions depot was identified as a potential site for an assembly plant for the hundreds of pre-fabricated houses required after the war.  However, the idea of a regional centre at Newtown St. Boswells did not go down well with the four Border county councils; it was considered that the centralisation of authority in one location did not take due account of the historic pattern of development in the Scottish Borders and local politics.

Nevertheless, following the enactment of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947, which introduced wide-ranging planning powers to control development, including the requirement to prepare development plans, discussions were held between the four Border county councils regarding the co-ordination of town and country planning across the region.  Although Peeblesshire County Council did not consider there would be any benefit to its area from such co-ordination, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Berwickshire County Councils decided to form a joint planning advisory committee for such purpose and in July 1947 approached architect/planner F.W.B. Charles, who had been the lead professional in the Central and South-East Scotland Study, to explore the practicalities of preparing a joint development plan for the three counties.  However, after providing estimated costs for his appointment to prepare a development plan for the three counties, and further deliberation on the practicalities of employing a consultant, the joint planning advisory committee, on the recommendation of the three county clerks, decided in October 1947 not to proceed with a joint development plan.  The reason provided in the minutes is the progress that had been made by Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire County Councils on the preparatory surveys of their areas, although it has to be said that the progress made by these two councils was not exceptional.  Indeed, work on the survey of Roxburghshire County continued throughout the next two years and it was December 1949 before an interim survey report was produced by John A.W. Grant.

At the end of 1949, Roxburghshire County Council still had no planning staff of its own, advice on planning applications being provided by the County Architect.  John A.W. Grant was engaged to prepare the development plan.  However, progress was slow; much time was spent on up-dating the out-dated 1:2500 scale OS Maps for the burghs (1921 editions for Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso).  The 1947 Act required planning authorities to prepare a development plan within 3 years of the commencement date, 1 July 1948, and in 1951 the Department of Health for Scotland suggested that the council should employ its own planning staff but the council was not persuaded.  However, as the years passed by and the Planning Advisory Committee became increasingly dis-satisfied with progress on the development plan, the council decided in October 1952 to appoint additional staff in the County Architects Department to assist with the preparation of the development plan.  The services of John A.W. Grant were dispensed with.

The County Architect, Alastair M. Milne, was appointed County Architect and Planning Officer in March 1953 and the Planning Advisory Committee was re-named the Planning Committee.  George B. Ovens, who would rise to become Depute County Planning Officer in 1968 and would be appointed Depute Director of Planning and Development for the Borders Regional Council in 1975, was poached from Selkirkshire County Council and was appointed Town Planning Draughtsman.  In November 1953, a planning assistant was appointed to provide further assistance with development control matters.

During the 1950s, there was a proliferation of advertisements, on hotels, public houses, garages and petrol filling stations, and advanced signs in the countryside.  The council designated the whole of the county as an Area of Special Control for Advertisements, except for the burgh of Hawick, parts of the burghs of Jedburgh and Kelso and parts of Melrose, Lilliesleaf, Newstead and St. Boswells.  The Committee agreed to the retention of advanced signs such as that for the Peebles Hydro located on the A68 at Newtown St. Boswells (one of a number of such signs sited throughout the Borders area) but requested the removal of others, such as a similar sign advertising the Peebles Hydro on the A68 south of Jedburgh and signs for the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel on the A68.  Mindful of the growing attraction of caravanning and camping, caravan sites were granted planning permission on the A68 south of Jedburgh and on the A7 south of Teviothead and north of Galashiels; planning permission was granted for a motel and petrol filling station on the A7 at Groundistone Heights between Ashkirk and Hawick (which was never implemented).

Extensive consultations and discussions took place with the town councils over various allocations and proposals for Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso, and it would be May 1957 before a draft development plan comprising the Survey Report and Written Statement, County Map, Town Maps for Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose, Newtown St. Boswells and St. Boswells, and a Programme Map, was completed and submitted to the Department of Health for Scotland for informal comments.

The development plan was based on an estimated county population of 44,560 in 1972, a decrease of about 1,000 persons on the 1951 Census figure.  Clearly, the county council was not optimistic about the future.  No definite industrial proposals were included in the Plan other than in Jedburgh, where the collapse of the rayon industry in 1956 had resulted in the loss of some 500 jobs.  The policy on residential development was concentrated on replacing over-crowded and unfit houses and meeting general needs through local authority housing.  Road proposals dominated with major road improvements proposed for the A7 and A68 trunk roads and improvements to the A698.  Road widening schemes in Hawick, Kelso and Melrose required the demolition of large numbers of properties and major changes to the historic street patterns in these towns that would cause consternation in later years and would be dropped from subsequent development plans.

It would be December 1961, partly due to the delay in the response from the Department of Health on the draft development plan, before the finalised development plan was submitted to the Secretary of State; the last of the four county development plans in the Scottish Borders to be prepared.  The next post on planning in Roxburghshire will examine the approved development plan in some detail and will also look at the impact of the Government’s White Paper on the Scottish Economy 1965-1970 and the subsequent Central Borders Study: A Plan for Expansion, published in 1968.