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

Berwickshire County Council established its Town and Country Planning Committee in June 1944 to deal with the first applications for planning permission under the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943.  Lord Home [the father of Sir Alec Douglas-Home] was elected Chairman of the new committee.  T. D. Anderson, from the council’s Roads Department was appointed Planning Officer, although he had no qualifications in town and country planning.  He had a typist to assist him!  Minor applications were dealt with by the County Clerk, in consultation with the Planning Officer.  T. D. Anderson was also charged with undertaking a survey of the county, apart from Eyemouth Burgh where the Burgh Surveyor was asked to undertake this task.

In March 1946, the Government’s Department of Health for Scotland, which had the responsibility for planning at national level, met the council’s Town and Country Planning Committee to discuss the way forward, little progress having been made on the survey of the county.  The Department of Health considered that additional staff were required and recommended the appointment of two planning assistants and a draughtsman in addition to the Planning Officer and his typist.  However, the council considered that the size of the county did not warrant such a large department and was content with its Planning Officer and typist in support.  Over the next year, the Department of Health for Scotland made further attempts to persuade the council to enlarge its staff but, with only an average of five planning applications a month, the council was not persuaded.

In March 1947, the council decided to merge the Planning and Property & Works Departments and T. D. Anderson took up the post of head of the new department.  Two members of staff were transferred from the council’s Public Health Department to assist with the additional workload but all planning matters remained the responsibility of  T.D. Anderson alone.  In the immediate post-war period, the majority of planning applications submitted related to proposals by the burgh councils for new local authority housing and the majority of these applications were dealt with expeditiously.  However, the burgh councils were consulted on all other applications submitted within their areas and this meant that these applications took longer, which was a cause for concern.

Following the dissolution of the Central and South-East Scotland Regional Advisory Committee, which had overseen the Frank Mears Study, and the enactment of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947, which introduced development plans, the four border counties discussed how development planning might be co-ordinated across the Scottish Borders.  Initial thoughts were that one development plan might be produced for the whole region and architect/planner, F.W.B. Charles, who had led the Frank Mears Study, was approached to prepare a development plan for the region.  However, after considerable deliberation, it was decided (by the County Clerks) that, in view of the progress being made in Selkirkshire and Roxburghshire (and the estimated costs of employing a consultant), it would be more sensible for each county to produce their own development plan.  It was agreed that a joint planning advisory committee should be established to ensure liaison between the counties.

In Berwickshire, with little progress on a survey of the area, the Department of Health for Scotland, in November 1948, again sought to persuade the council to appoint additional staff to undertake the preparation of the development plan and suggested that up to six staff were required.  The council baulked at this but eventually agreed to appoint two planning assistants, who duly took up their posts in July 1949 and set to work on a survey of Eyemouth and Duns burghs.  One of their first tasks was to bring the out-dated Ordnance Survey (OS) maps up-to-date, a major challenge for many planning departments at this time.  In Berwickshire, the latest edition of the 1:25,000 OS maps was produced in 1908!

In December 1949, after further pressure from the Department of Health for Scotland, the council decided to appoint a consultant to prepare the development plan and, after interviewing three candidates, the council appointed architect/planner F.W.B. Charles and he quickly set to work.  Unfortunately for the two planning assistants, appointed by the council in July 1949, they were not required by the planning consultant who had his own team and they were duly given notice to quit in February 1950, after only 9 months in the job.

T. D. Anderson continued to be responsible for dealing with the day-to-day activities of development control. Major Askew became the Chairman of the Planning and Property and Works Committee, as it had been called since March 1947, in May 1950. At this time, county council membership was dominated by the landed gentry, the clergy and other professional people.  For instance, in July 1950, the Planning and Property and Works Committee comprised:

        • Major Askew (Chairman)
        • Brigadier Swinton
        • Lieut. Col. Miller
        • Rev. R. Hamilton
        • Dr. Mitchell Innes
        • Earl of Ellesmere (became Duke of Sutherland)
        • Earl of Home
        • Captain McDougall
        • Rev. W.B. Paton

On the development control front, the emergence and expansion of holiday hut sites was a growing issue across the Scottish Borders in the late 1940s and 1950s, and Berwickshire was not immune.  In Lauderdale, for instance, which was accessible from the urban area of Midlothian to the north, the illegal siting of buses, caravans, huts etc. caused increasing concern to the council’s elected members.  A police report of September 1950 itemises twelve buses, trailers, railway carriages, caravans and huts in the Oxton area, such as:

  • Railway carriage without wheels, three rooms, fenced in and concrete paving laid round; Occupier: James Bryson, Dalkeith;
  • Tramcar; Occupier: Reynolds Arnott, Edinburgh;
  • Double-deck bus on wheels; Occupier: J. Allan, Tranent.

In October 1950, the council decided to split the Planning and Property & Works Department into two and T. D. Anderson was appointed County Planning Officer.  Progress continued on the preparation of the development plan with F.W.B. Charles producing town maps for the burghs and the other main settlements.  Each of these was the subject of consultation with the respective burgh councils.

In 1952, with the election of Major Askew as Chairman of the County Council, Brigadier Swinton took over chairmanship of the Planning and Property and Works Committee.  The continued illegal siting of railway carriages, caravans and shacks in various parts of the county prompted the county council to establish a Camping and Caravans Sub-Committee with the aim of taking enforcement action to remove the illegal encampments and encourage bone-fide mobile caravan sites in suitable locations.

By September 1953, a Draft Report of Survey, together with Town Maps for Duns, Eyemouth, Chirnside, Coldstream and Lauder, had been completed by F.W.B. Charles.  His involvement in the development plan ceased at this stage, co-incidentally he had moved from Edinburgh to the English Midlands, and John B. Hall of J & J Hall, Architects in Galashiels, who had prepared the Selkirkshire County Development Plan was approached to complete the development plan.  After a number of meetings and deliberations over the cost of appointing John B Hall, the architect withdrew his interest in taking over the development plan in September 1954 due to health issues.  Under continuing pressure from the Department of Health for Scotland, approaches were made to East Lothian Council to discuss the possibility of its County Planning Officer, Frank Tindall, who had completed the East Lothian County Development Plan, to undertake the Berwickshire County Development Plan.  Although the County Planning Officer was enthusiastic, the council would not release him.  With little progress over the ensuing two years, the council approached Midlothian County Council to enlist the services of its County Planning Officer, John Baillie.  Midlothian County Council agreed and John Baillie was appointed in January 1957 as planning consultant with responsibility for finalising and submitting the development plan to the Secretary of State.

By the mid-1950s, the number of planning applications received each year had risen to over 200 per annum.  The number of applications for illuminated signs at petrol filling stations, hotels and public houses increased as such businesses sought to cater for the growing number of car-borne travellers.  In the late-1950s, the first rumblings about visitor pressures at Coldingham Sands is evidence in committee minutes.

After three years of deliberation over such matters as the siting of new industry, a by-pass for Coldstream and the upgrading of the A697, the County Development Plan was agreed in draft form, for consultation with the burghs and other parties, in December 1959.  It was agreed to extend the agreement with Midlothian County Council over the services of John Ballie, its County Planning Officer, until December 1960.  In June 1960, the council received its 3000th planning application, an average of 200 per annum since 1945.  The Planning Department moved from the Council Buildings in Newtown Street, Duns to Southfield Lodge on Station Road.

The County Development Plan was finally submitted to the Secretary of State in December 1960.  The Plan was prepared on the assumption that the 1957 population of 23,753 would at least be retained, additional population in the burghs off-setting the decline in population in the landward area.  It was not envisaged that there would be any demand for housing in the landward area and no housing allocations were made outside the burghs of Eyemouth, Duns, Coldstream and Lauder, and Chirnside and Earlston.  It was the policy of the county council to encourage industrial development, although there appeared little prospect of attracting industry to Berwickshire, and sites for industry were identified in the burghs and Chirnside and Earlston.  Harbour improvements at Eyemouth were proposed.  A long list of road proposals for the trunk roads (A1 and A68) and the A697 were identified, with by-passes for all the main towns and villages on these roads, such as Ayton, Reston, Grantshouse and Cockburnspath on the A1, Lauder and Earlston on the A68 and Coldstream on the A698.  In the landward area, the Lammermuir Hills, the coastal strip and the Tweed Valley around Dryburgh, Bemersyde and Scott’s View were identified as Areas of Great Landscape Value.

In the next post we shall see how Berwickshire County Council reacted to the continuing decline in employment opportunities and population in the county and to the rapidly changing circumstances of the 1960s brought about by increasing mobility and changing patterns of leisure and recreation.

 

Renewable Energy: April 2018 Update

Renewable electricity generation in Scotland reached record levels in 2017, according to official data.  Statistics published by the UK government showed an increase in Scotland of 26% in 2017, compared with the previous year.  The majority of this increase was attributed to greater onshore wind capacity.  The data also showed that by the end of 2017, just over 10GW of installed renewables electricity capacity was operational in Scotland.  It is estimated that the equivalent of 68.1% of gross electricity consumption in Scotland came from renewable sources, up year-on-year by 14.1 percentage points.  In commenting on these figures, Scotland’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, confirmed that renewable energy will continue to play a hugely significant role in powering Scotland’s future.

As those people who are concerned at the proliferation of wind turbines in the Scottish Borders will know, Scottish Borders Council has been relying on its 2011 Supplementary Planning Guidance on Wind Energy, large parts of which are out-of-date in relation to Government policy, when determining applications for wind energy developments.  When the Scottish Borders Local Development Plan was adopted in May 2016, it included an intention to produce up-to-date Supplementary Guidance on Renewable Energy, including wind energy, within one year of the adoption of the local development plan.

The council published Draft Supplementary Guidance on Renewable Energy in December 2016 for consultation with interested parties and, after a prolonged period of deliberation, a final version of the Supplementary Guidance has now been approved by Scottish Borders Council for submission to Scottish Ministers.  It is vital that the Council has up-to-date Supplementary Guidance in place, which takes cognisance of all relevant national planning policy and guidance, when assessing and determining wind farm proposals.  It also strengthens the council’s position when defending its refusal of planning permission for wind turbines and wind farms at planning appeals.

National planning policy promotes renewable energy developments to facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy.  The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires all public bodies to mitigate the causes of climate change.  The Government’s National Planning Framework (NPF3) and Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) are supportive of renewable energy.  Policy ED9 in the Scottish Borders Local Development Plan states that the Supplementary Guidance on Renewable Energy will accord with Scottish Planning Policy; this requires an onshore spatial framework identifying areas where wind farms will not be acceptable, areas of significant protection, and areas with potential for wind farm development; a contentious issue amongst those communities which have concerns about the impact of wind farms on the landscape and rural communities.

In terms of wind energy, the Supplementary Guidance, therefore, sets out a spatial framework as required by SPP, and incorporates an update of the Ironside Farrar Landscape Capacity and Cumulative Impact Study of July 2013, which has been the subject of intense scrutiny at recent planning appeals.  Although wind energy is the main component of the SG, reference is also made to a range of other types of renewable energy development, including micro-renewables such as photovoltaic panels, field scale solar voltaics, biomass, energy from waste, anaerobic digestion, hydro and ground source heat pumps.  The SG provides useful background information and good planning practice guidance on each of these energy types.

The spatial framework for wind energy proposals, which applies to all turbines that exceed 15m in height to blade tip, has been generated through a comprehensive sieving exercise of constraints, including national and international landscape and conservation designations and the visual impact on communities.  Figure 6 in the SG shows the results of this exercise and to the consternation of many people, I am sure, a large part of the Scottish Borders lies within the area designated as having potential for wind farm development.

However, compliance with the spatial framework is only one consideration in determining whether a wind farm proposal is acceptable.  Policy ED9 of the adopted local development plan identifies a comprehensive list of other considerations.  These are set out in chapter 8 of the SG and include:

  • Landscape and visual impacts;
  • Effects on Wild Land;
  • Cumulative impacts;
  • Impacts on communities and individual dwellings in the countryside;
  • Impacts on carbon rich soils;
  • Impacts on public access, the historic environment, tourism and recreation;
  • Impacts on aviation and defence interests and seismological recording, telecommunications and broadcasting installations;
  • Impacts on adjacent trunk roads and roads traffic;
  • Effects on the natural heritage (including flood risk);
  • Opportunities for energy storage;
  • Net economic impact;
  • Contribution to renewable energy generation targets and effect on greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • Decommissioning and site restoration.

Also, whilst the spatial framework identifies areas of protection and areas with potential for wind farms, it takes no cognisance of landscape capacity issues, which are material considerations for wind energy proposals.  Consequently, outputs from the Ironside Farrar Landscape Capacity Study must be referred to as well as the spatial framework.  If turbines are proposed which exceed the turbine heights identified within the Ironside Farrar Study 2016, the onus will be on the applicant to demonstrate how the impacts of the proposal on the key constraints and any unacceptable significant adverse effects can be mitigated.

It will be interesting to see what Scottish Ministers have to say about this new Supplementary Guidance for I am sure that the Council will want to see it approved and incorporated into the local development plan as soon as possible.  As well as providing advice to applicants/developers on the wide range of issues to be addressed within their submissions, the SG should also enable development management officers within the Planning Department to provide clearer guidance on wind farm related considerations, and process applications more effectively and efficiently.

 

Development Planning: New Year 2018

At the end of 2017, Scottish Borders Council approved Supplementary Guidance and a Simplified Planning Zone Scheme for the Central Borders Business Park at Tweedbank.  The purpose of the Supplementary Guidance is to provide a framework for the future development of sites within the Central Borders Business Park, which includes Tweedbank Industrial Estate, Tweedside Business Park (to the north of Tweedbank Drive) and land between Tweedside Business Park and Tweedbank Train Station.  The purpose of the Simplified Planning Zone (SPZ) is to allow development to take place within the Central Borders Business Park without the need for planning permission so long as it complies with certain parameters and conditions.

It is the council’s view that the arrival of the Borders Railway offers a significant opportunity to capitalise on the existing industrial park and provide a supply of high quality business and industrial land to serve the Central Borders.  It is proposed that the current industrial park will be redeveloped with the refurbishment and reconfiguration of existing buildings to provide twenty-first century manufacturing and office facilities.  It will be marketed as the Borders Innovation Park.  The Supplementary Guidance indicates how sites could be developed, identifies opportunities, highlights potential constraints and encourages high quality design and layout.  The SPZ effectively grants planning permission in advance for specific types of development within defined areas.  Within specified areas of the Central Borders Business Park the permitted uses include business, general industrial, storage/distribution, hotel and limited retail floor space uses.  Developments that fall outwith the scope of the SPZ would require planning permission in the normal way.  All proposals would require Building Standards approval but procedures allow for the fast-tracking of building warrant applications relating to inward investment proposals.  The SPZ, therefore, offers scope to change the use of premises, build new premises and/or alter and extend existing buildings without the need for a formal planning application subject to compliance with the detailed parameters and conditions detailed in the document.

The Council approved the Supplementary Guidance and the Simplified Planning Zone Scheme on 30 November 2017 for submission to the Scottish Ministers for approval.  Once approved by the Scottish Ministers, the Supplementary Guidance would formally become part of the Adopted Local Development Plan 2016.

As part of the Borders Railway Blueprint programme, masterplans for Tweedbank and Galashiels commissioned from independent consultants were presented to the Scottish Borders Council on 25 January 2018.  These masterplans present a number of proposals to attract inward investment through both public and private sector funding and encourage people to work, live and visit the Borders.  The Masterplan for Tweedbank, prepared by Proctor Matthews Architects, incorporates land on the Lowood Estate between the railway line and the River Tweed.  This area of approximately 34 hectares is identified for a mix of residential and business development in the Adopted Local Development Plan 2016, as amended by the Housing Supplementary Guidance, approved by Scottish Ministers on 9 November 2017.  The Tweedbank Masterplan, as well as identifying the potential for some 300 houses and land for new business development at Lowood, also highlights the opportunity to create a new square at the train station with cafes, offices and apartments.  It is expected that this initiative, together with increased car parking provision, will reinforce Tweedbank as a hub for visitors arriving by train to explore the surrounding tourist attractions and countryside of the Borders.  The Tweedbank Masterplan will be taken forward in the Local Development Plan 2, which is in the course of preparation and will replace the adopted local development plan.

At the same meeting, the council also discussed an outline masterplan for the future regeneration of the centre of Galashiels.  The masterplan, prepared by Stallan Brand Architects, provides a vision for the future of the town centre and demonstrates how the area could be developed to maximise the full economic potential of the Borders Railway.  It focusses on the delivery of residential, retail and business space to help regenerate the town centre, with the opening of the Great Tapestry of Scotland Visitor Centre as the catalyst for further projects.  The masterplan highlights the potential opportunities for development and improvement of six zones within the town centre: Stirling Street; Channel Street/Market Square; Overhaugh Street; Bridge Street; Sime Place and Park Street; and an area alongside the Gala Water stretching from Buckholmside to Langhaugh and alongside the Mill Lade from Bank Street to Roxburgh Street.

The masterplan reviews eight potential sites for a hotel in the town centre without reaching any conclusion as to the most appropriate and feasible site.  It also includes a proposal for the extension of Market Square between Channel Street and Overhaugh Street into a larger and more flexible events and activities space.  Consultations on the masterplan have been held with the community and local businesses, arts and tourism organisations and councillors agreed that the masterplan proposals should be taken into account in the preparation of the Local Development Plan 2.

The preparation of Local Development Plan 2 is progressing.  According to the council’s Development Plan Scheme November 2017, the next stage in the process is the preparation of a Main Issues Report (MIR), which will focus on the key areas of change from the adopted local development plan and will present a range of development options for comment and discussion. The publication of this document is a key stage in terms of public consultation as it is from the views and comments expressed on the development options in the MIR that the council will decide on the way forward.  The formal consultation on the MIR is planned for the summer of this year (2018) so keep an eye out for the announcements that will emanate from the council publicising the publication of this document and the opportunities to submit representations on the various development options.

This post on development planning in the Scottish Borders would not be complete without a tribute to John Crawford, known to many as ‘Choppy’, who died on 3 February 2018.  John, a Melrosian through and through, was the driving force behind house-builders, J. S. Crawford, for fifty years.  He took over from his father Jim, who founded the company in 1946, in 1963 and built the firm into the largest construction company in the Scottish Borders and the largest private house builder before the volume house builders moved in during the 1990s.  Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Crawford Builders built houses in almost every town and village in the Central Borders, from Kelso to Hawick and from Jedburgh to Melrose, Galashiels and Selkirk.  John was an astute businessman and I remember well the challenges he presented to the Borders Regional Council’s Planning and Development Department. We did not always see eye-to-eye but John was always a fair adversary.  He will be sadly missed and my sincere condolences go to his wife and family.

 

Development Management: New Year 2018

During the calendar year 2017, the Scottish Borders Council received and determined over 1500 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to trees.  Of these applications, approximately 80 were refused consent (5.3%).  Only nine planning applications were refused by the Planning and Building Standards Committee during 2017 and eight of these decisions were the subject of an appeal to the Scottish Ministers; the ninth refusal related to the council’s own waste transfer station at Easter Langlee, Galashiels, refused planning permission in April 2017, a decision that was overturned at a subsequent meeting in November.  Clearly, prospective developers do not easily take no for an answer.

Some seventy applications were refused under delegated powers by the Appointed Officer, the Chief Planning Officer.  The Local Review Body (LRB) dealt with some 38 requests to review the decision of the Appointed Officer to either refuse planning permission or grant planning permission subject to conditions.  Sixteen of these requests, where the LRB decided to reverse the decision of the Appointed Officer and grant planning permission, were successful.  The LRB upheld the Appointed Officer’s decision to refuse planning permission in 22 cases.

Two appeals to Scottish Ministers against the refusal of planning permission by the Planning and Building Standards Committee were sustained by a Reporter from the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) in 2017: the change of use of 6-8 Douglas Bridge, Galashiels from retail units to offices for the relocation of the Job Centre (SBC Ref: 17/00039/REF); and the part change of use of Hartree House, Kilbucho in Peeblesshire and the erection of marquees for use as a wedding venue (SBC Ref: 17/00012/COND).  An appeal against the council’s refusal to discharge two obligations, which required that Broadmeadows Farm, Hutton in Berwickshire should be farmed as a single agricultural unit and that no further dwellinghouses should be erected on the farm, was also sustained (SBC Ref: 17/00005/REF).  One appeal was dismissed; against the refusal of planning permission for the erection of storage and distribution buildings and the erection of an ancillary dwellinghouse on land north east of the Old Creamery, Dolphinton in Peeblesshire (SBC Ref: 17/00041/REF).

Seven appeals to Scottish Ministers against the refusal of planning permission remain outstanding: (1) for the construction of a wind farm comprising 12 turbines at Pines Burn, south west of Hobkirk (SBC Ref: 17/00010/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2069); (2) for the erection of 7 wind turbines on land north-west of Gilston Farm, near Heriot (SBC Ref: 17/00226/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2068); (3) for residential development on land to the east of the Edinburgh Road in Peebles (SBC Ref: 17/00015/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2067); (4) for the erection of a poultry building at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2065); (5) for the erection of a poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2062); (6) a residential development of 38 dwellings at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2059); and (7) a proposed windfarm of 8 turbines at Howpark, Grantshouse, also in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2060).

Following the Scottish Ministers controversial decision to approve the construction of a 14 turbine wind farm at Whitelaw Brae, near Tweedsmuir in Peeblesshire in early December, three wind farm applications submitted to the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the 1989 Act, to which the Scottish Borders Council has objected, remain outstanding: (1) the application for a 12 turbine extension to the existing Fallago Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills; (2) the application to extend the operational life of the existing Fallago Rig wind farm to coincide with that of the extension (if approved) (DPEA case references WIN-140-5 & WIN-140-6); and (3) an application for the erection of 15 wind turbines on land at Birneyknowe, near Bonchester Bridge, south-east of Hawick (DPEA case reference WIN-140-7).  How will these applications be determined?

Six windfarm proposals, with a total of 54 turbines are, therefore, the subject of referral to the Scottish Ministers for a decision.  A lot rests on the shoulders of the Reporters of the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA).

Applications for more windfarms continue to be submitted.  A request for a Scoping Opinion on the installation of up to 49 wind turbines near Fawside, south- west of Hawick was received on 11 January (SBC Ref: 18/00052/SCO).  The site straddles the Scottish Borders/Dumfries and Galloway border with the main access from the A7 at Teviothead.  The submitted Scoping Report outlines the development proposals and the aspects of the environment that will be addressed in the Environmental Impact Assessment.  The council has until 9th March to respond to the Scoping Report unless any time extensions are agreed.  This proposal will no doubt generate a great deal of interest amongst the local communities of Teviothead and Craik, and further afield.

After a relatively quiet period, the New Year has heralded the submission of a number of housing proposals in the Scottish Borders.  A Proposal of Application for more residential development at Sergeants Park, Newtown St. Boswells was submitted on 3 January on behalf of Eildon Housing Association (SBC Ref: 17/01758/PAN).  A community engagement event in the form of a drop-in event will be held between 5.00pm and 8.00pm on 24 January 2018 in the Newtown Community Wing on Sprouston Road.  The proposed development would extend the already approved development of 49 houses and four flats by Eildon Housing on land west of the King George V Playing Field.  A planning application has also been received from M & J Ballantyne of Kelso, on behalf of Eildon Housing Association, for the erection of 30 dwellinghouses and 2 flats on land at Howden Drive, Jedburgh.  The site is allocated for housing in the Local Development Plan.

A Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) has been submitted by Rural Renaissance Ltd for the development of housing and associated roads, car parking and landscaping, at The Croft on Dingleton Road, Melrose (SBC Ref: 18/00016/PAN).  This site has a long history of planning proposals and this proposal will no doubt attract a great deal of interest amongst the population of Melrose.  A public exhibition of the proposed development will be held in Melrose Rugby Club from 2.00pm until 7.30pm on Wednesday 31 January where there will be an opportunity to question the applicant and their design team.  According to the agents for the proposal, feedback from the public is at the heart of this consultation process so all those interested in the future of this site should make their views known.  In accordance with statutory procedures, a planning application for the proposed development cannot be submitted less than 12 weeks from the submission of the PAN, so it will be April, at least, before any formal planning application is received by the Scottish Borders Council.  The planning application will require to be accompanied by a Pre-Application Consultation Report setting out the public consultations that have taken place and the responses received.

On 8 January, the Planning and Building Standards Committee, at its first meeting of 2018 gave planning permission for the erection of an Intergenerational Community Campus at Hartrigge Park in Jedburgh.  This £32m complex will replace the existing Parkside and Howdenburn Primary Schools and the Jedburgh Grammar Schools into a single school campus.  Concerns regarding the suitability of Waterside Road for construction traffic and for traffic to and from the campus when operational are to be further investigated.  The campus is not expected to be open before 2020.

Looking ahead, will more wind farms be approved by Scottish Ministers against the wishes of Scottish Borders Council and the local community.  Will the Scottish Borders Council finalise its Renewable Energy Supplementary Guidance, prepared in draft in December 2016 or will it continue to rely on its supplementary planning guidance on wind energy approved in May 2011, which does not comply with Scottish Government Policy.  On the wider planning issues, the council’s Housing Supplementary Guidance, which identified additional housing sites to provide for a further 926 housing units, was adopted by the council in November 2017 and now forms part of the Adopted Local Development Plan 2016.

In relation to the review of the local development plan, the next step is the production of a Main Issues Report (MIR) which identifies the issues that require to be tackled and identifies preferred and alternative solutions.  The MIR is expected during the Spring/Summer of 2018, following which a wide-ranging consultation programme will ensure.  If you want to be involved, let the council know by emailing the Forward Planning Team on localplan@scotborders.gov.uk.

Local Development Plan Update: October 2017

The drop-in and workshop sessions organised by Scottish Borders Council at eight locations for those people who are interested in the future development of the Scottish Borders have now finished.  The purpose of these sessions was to encourage the public to contribute to the Local Development Plan process.  Attendance levels have varied, as one might expect; the sessions at Peebles and Galashiels were very well attended, but others less so.  The issues raised have covered a wide range of topics, from the need for a new bridge over the Tweed in Peebles, a by-pass for Selkirk and the safeguarding of the Waverley Route all the way to the border with England to the need for more flexibility towards uses within the region’s town centres and the greater use of brownfield sites rather than greenfield sites for new housing.  There are differing opinions, of course, but the purpose of the workshop sessions was to allow these opinions to be expressed and debated.

Housing land allocation does not appear to be a major issue.  If the Scottish Ministers go along with the additional housing land allocations proposed by the council in the Housing Supplementary Guidance, approved by Scottish Borders Council in August (see post on Draft Housing Supplementary Guidance, 30 August 2017), it would seem that few additional sites will be required in the new Local Development Plan.  This assumes that none of the existing allocated sites are removed from the Plan but there are question marks over sites that have been in the Local Development Plan for some years yet remain undeveloped.  If such sites are removed, replacements are likely to be required.

Town centre regeneration is a major issue, particularly in towns such as Galashiels, Hawick and Selkirk, but there are no easy answers.  There are different views on the alternative use of empty shop premises on the prime retail frontages in these town centres, on the encouragement of a mix of uses within town centres, including more residential uses, and the provision and regulation of car parking.  The key would appear to be the generation of increased footfall but how to do this remains a thorny problem.

The pressure for more wind farms continues unabated and this will be a major issue for the new Local Development Plan; turbines up to 200 metres to tip height are now being considered by developers.  Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) requires Local Development Plans to set out a spatial framework for wind farms which identifies: (1) areas where wind farms will not be acceptable, (2) areas of significant protection where wind farms may be appropriate in some circumstances, and (3) areas where wind farms are likely to be acceptable, subject to detailed consideration against identified criteria.  Scottish Borders Council has prepared Draft Supplementary Guidance on Renewable Energy, which includes a wind energy spatial framework.  When finalised, this will require to be incorporated within the Local Development Plan.  Meanwhile, proposals for wind farms continue to cause a great deal of anxiety amongst a number of communities.

The next step in the local development plan process is for the Council to produce a Main Issues Report (MIR), which identifies the issues that require to be tackled by the Plan and identifies preferred and alternative solutions.  The issues to be considered include:

  • identification of housing land;
  • employment land provision;
  • regeneration of town centres;
  • protection of the built environment;
  • promotion of placemaking and good design;
  • road and transport improvements;
  • renewable energy and addressing climate change;
  • protection of greenspace;
  • protection of the natural environment; and
  • protection of the Borders landscape.

Public engagement is a key part of the development plan process.  If you don’t make your views known, they can’t be considered.  The closing date for the submission of views and comments at this stage of the process is 27 October 2017.  All the submissions made at the drop-in sessions and at the workshops, and those submitted in writing, including the questionnaires distributed at the drop-in sessions, will be considered in the preparation of the MIR.

It will be the spring of next year (2018) before the MIR is finalised by the Council.  A wide-ranging consultation programme will follow during the summer of 2018 before the preparation of the local development plan itself commences in the autumn of 2018 and it will be the autumn of 2019 before the proposed new local development plan (LDP2) is completed.  Once adopted, the new Local Development Plan (LDP2) will replace the current Local Development Plan, adopted on 12 May 2016.  The new plan, LDP2, will guide future development for the period 2012-2026.

Local Development Plan Update: September 2017

Scottish Borders Council is currently preparing a new Local Development Plan (Local Development Plan 2) to replace the current LDP to guide future development within the Scottish Borders for the period 2021-2026.  SBC is at the very early stages of this process and is gathering evidence to produce the first document called the ‘Main Issues Report’, which will focus on the key areas of change from the current LDP and will present a range of options for future development.  A Call for Sites as part of the preparation of the MIR invited land owners, developers and agents to submit proposed development sites for consideration.  The period for submitting site proposals expired on 7 August 2017.

SBC is now holding a series of drop-in and workshop sessions for those people interested in the future development of the Scottish Borders to feed into the MIR process.  The council is proposing to hold drop-in and workshop sessions on the dates below (drop-in sessions will run from 2pm-5pm and workshop sessions from 6pm):

  • Thursday 21 September:        Community Centre, Eyemouth
  • Tuesday 26 September:         Town Hall, Kelso
  • Wednesday 27 September:    Tesco Foyer, Galashiels (drop-in session) and Transport Interchange, Galashiels (workshop session)
  • Thursday 28 September:       Burgh Hall, Peebles
  • Tuesday 3 October:                Heritage Hub, Hawick
  • Thursday 5 October:              Council Chamber, Duns
  • Tuesday 10 October:              Pop-up Shop, 1 Tower Street, Selkirk (drop-in session) and Community Connections, Back Row, Selkirk (workshop session)
  • Thursday 12 October:            Council Chamber, Newtown St. Boswells (workshop session only, 2pm-4pm)

The workshop sessions will accommodate up to 30 participants and will last about 2 hours.  Anyone wishing to attend, should let the council’s Forward Planning Team know either by email: localplan@scotborders.gov.uk or by letter to:  Forward Planning Team,  Scottish Borders Council,  Newtown St. Boswells,  Melrose,  TD6 0SA

If you want to make your views known on the future priorities for development in the Scottish Borders, here is your chance to get involved.

Renewable Energy Development: Wind Farm Guidance

Wind farms have been a significant issue in the Scottish Borders for a number of years.  By December 2016, 483 turbines over 15m in height to blade tip had been approved in the Scottish Borders with the potential to generate 747MW of energy.  Many of the larger scale commercial developments have taken place in the Lammermuir Hills; at Crystal Rig, Aikengall and Fallago Rig, and within the Moorfoot Hills at Dun Law.  In response to the increasing number of proposals for wind farms, the Scottish Borders Council prepared Supplementary Planning Guidance on Wind Energy in May 2011 to reflect Scottish Planning Policy set out in 2010.  However, the 2010 Scottish Planning Policy requirements have been superseded by Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) 2014.  SPP 2014 requires planning authorities to prepare spatial frameworks for onshore wind farms based on three distinct areas: (1) areas where wind farms will not be acceptable, (2) areas of significant protection where wind farms may be appropriate in some circumstances, and (3) areas where wind farms are likely to be acceptable, subject to detailed consideration against identified policy criteria.

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

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