As 2020 comes to a close, little has changed since March, the council’s Planning Department remains closed to the public with case officers working remotely from home. Is their light at the end of the tunnel? The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on all our lives, some far more than others. Not surprisingly, planning activity was severely limited in the Spring of this year with construction work in abeyance and architects, planning consultants and tradesmen at home protecting their families. Although there was some relaxing of restrictions during the summer, planning activity has remained below that of recent years. The average number of planning applications received and determined in recent years has topped 1500 per annum but, in contrast, during 2020, only 1350 such applications were received by the Scottish Borders Council, the lowest for many years. Whilst planning applications continue to be registered and are being processed in as normal a way as possible, less than 1200 applications were determined in 2020, meaning that the backlog of undetermined applications continues to grow.
In December, some 112 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees, were received. The vast majority of applications related to the erection of single dwellinghouses and alterations and extensions to dwellinghouses, and works to trees. A quiet end to the year, with no outstanding planning applications to report other than perhaps the re-application for a previously approved chalet development at Scoutscroft Holiday Centre at Coldingham (SBC Ref: 20/01545/FUL), the proposal for the provision of touring caravan/motorhome pitches on a permanent basis at Springwood Park in Kelso (SBC Ref: 20/01517/CLPU), and the laying out of roads, static caravan stances, play areas and landscaping for phase 2 of the caravan park at Thirlestane Castle, Lauder (SBC Ref: 20/01494/FUL); three proposals that may well have been prompted, at least in part, by the Covid Pandemic and the likelihood of an increase in staycation holidays in the coming years.
Check out the council’s Public Access Portal if you want to find out more about the above applications or any other application submitted in the past month.
The number of applications determined by the Chief Planning and Housing Officer under delegated powers in December, at 97 decisions, is again below the number of applications received. Consequently, the backlog continues to grow as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. Only one application was refused planning permission by the Chief Planning and Housing Officer under delegated powers: an application for the erection of a log cabin for holiday let at 31 Dulse Craig, Eyemouth (SBC Ref: 20/01227/FUL).
The Planning and Building Standards Committee met, remotely by Microsoft Teams, on Monday 7 December to consider three planning applications. The committee gave the green light for the establishment of a holiday caravan and camping park, comprising 99 static pitches, 14 touring pitches, luxury lodges and glamping accommodation, on a 15 acre site on the western edge of Coldstream (SBC Ref: 19/01454/FUL). The developer has operated the Blackadder Holiday Park in Greenlaw for some 25 years and has been investigating the possible development of a holiday park at Coldstream for some time. Although there was considerable opposition to the proposal, there was also some support for a caravan/camp site to bolster Coldstream as a tourist centre. The committee decided that the potential economic benefits outweighed the landscape impact concerns and granted planning permission, subject to the condition that the static caravans be occupied for a maximum 6 months in any one year.
The committee also decided to grant planning permission for the use of land at Quarry Farm, Lamberton for equestrian use to facilitate the relocation of the existing business (SBC Ref: 20/00769/FUL) and, despite considerable objections from the local community, the committee decided by 5 votes to 3 to grant planning permission for changes to the design of two dwellinghouses on land opposite West Lodge, Minto, previously approved in 2019 under planning consent 19/00947/FUL (SBC Ref: 20/00893/FUL).
The Local Review Body met on 14 December, conducted remotely by Microsoft Teams, and considered two appeals against refusals of planning permission by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers. The LRB reversed the Chief Planning Officer’s decision to refuse an application for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land at East Neuk, Morebattle and granted planning permission (SBC Ref: 20/00028/PPP & 20/00025/RREF). The LRB decided to uphold the Chief Planning Officer’s decision to refuse planning permission for the formation of a dormer at 19 Myrescroft Road, Ancrum (SBC Ref: 20/00537/FUL & 20/00026/RREF).
In relation to appeals to Scottish Ministers, the appeals in relation to the refusals of planning permission for the erection of two poultry buildings at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2082 & PPA-140-2083) remain outstanding. The Reporter in this case has intimated to parties that he will be carrying out an unaccompanied inspection of the sites of the two applications, Covid restrictions permitting. The appeal against the refusal of planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land at Burnside, Lower Green, West Linton in Peeblesshire will also be the subject of an unaccompanied site inspection (SBC Ref: PPA-140-2084). The appeal against the council’s refusal of planning permission for the erection of 52 holiday lodges on land north west of Willowdean House, Foulden in Berwickshire remains outstanding (SBC Ref: 20/00067/FUL & DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2081).
A decision is also awaited on the application under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 for an expansion of the Crystal Rig Wind Farm in the Lammermuirs, comprising the addition of 11 turbines to the existing 90 turbines (DPEA Ref: WIN-140-8). The council’s objection relates to the visual impact of the proposed red aviation lights to be fitted to seven of the eleven turbines and the impact on the landscape character of the area. The Reporters appointed to consider the proposal conducted an unaccompanied inspection of the site and viewpoints on 3 September.
Might I take this opportunity to remind readers of this blog that the deadline for representations on the Proposed Local Development Plan (LDP2) is 25 January 2021 and that, according to the councils publicity, this deadline is final and any representations received after this date will not be considered. So, don’t miss your chance to have your say on the future strategy for development and land use change in the Scottish Borders.
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to pay my tribute to Andrew L. Tulley MBE, who died at the end of November. I knew Drew well as Chairman (that was the name used back then) of the Planning and Development Committee of the Borders Regional Council. He would go on to lead Scottish Borders Council after 1996 (until 2002). As others have remarked, he stood no nonsense from professional officers, who were well-paid to give advice, and did not suffer fools. He gave ‘total commitment’ to everything he tackled and expected the same from you. Nevertheless, he was very fair and respected your advice and opinion, whether he agreed with it or not. I got on well with him. He will be sorely missed and as William Shakespeare says in Hamlet “He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again”, or perhaps the following epitaph by Robert Burns might be more appropriate “A Man’s A Man for A’That”.