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

The first meeting of Selkirkshire County Council’s Planning Committee was held on Thursday 28 October 1943 but it was at the second meeting on 18 January 1944 that it appointed its Chairman, Major Scott Plummer of Sunderland Hall, and conducted its first business.  The first task for the new committee was to establish a system for dealing with applications submitted under the Interim Development powers conferred by the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943.  Under the 1943 Act, the Department of Health for Scotland expected planning applications to be dealt with within 14 days; there was no such thing as neighbour notification or public consultation of any kind.  In Selkirkshire, the County Clerk dealt with applications timeously and reported to the Planning Committee.

The first planning application, approved at the committee held on 28 April 1944, was for improvements and alterations to Langhaugh House on the Melrose Road, Galashiels [now demolished!].  Only five other planning applications were received in 1944, submitted by Selkirk and Galashiels town councils for the erection of temporary housing.  Twenty-one applications were determined in 1945, and eighty in 1946.  By 1950, the number of applications, all dealt with by the Planning Committee, had risen to 125.

The 1943 Act also required planning authorities to initiate a survey of their area (of the use of land, the use and condition of buildings, the provision of services such as water and drainage, gas and electricity, school provision and bus routes).  The Edinburgh Architectural Association had already undertaken a preliminary survey of Galashiels Burgh in 1943 for the Department of Health, which was responsible for town and country planning in Scotland at Government level.  In accordance with the requirements of the 1943 Act, the committee asked the burgh surveyor of Selkirk to undertake a comprehensive survey of Selkirk and John C. Hall, architect of Galashiels, was appointed to undertake the survey of the landward area.  Surveys of Galashiels, Selkirk and the main villages in the county, Ashkirk, Clovenfords, Ettrickbridge End and Yarrowfeus were completed by the end of 1944 and interim planning schemes were prepared in draft.

In Galashiels, the Department of Health had earmarked almost 20 acres of land at Gala Policies (Forest Gardens and Balmoral Avenue) for local authority development.  Local builders, John G & George A Hunter, built private houses at Glenfield and along the north side of Melrose Road at Wester Langlee.  In Selkirk, the town council submitted proposals for new housing at Raeburn Meadow and Philiphaugh (Bannerfield).  Although the County Agricultural Committee objected to the loss of agricultural land at Philiphaugh because of the effect on Philiphaugh Farm (a dairy farm), the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (DAFS) had no objections and consent was granted.

Following the enactment of the Town and County Planning (Scotland Act 1947, there were discussions amongst Roxburgh, Selkirkshire and Berwickshire County Councils regarding the establishment of a joint advisory committee and the appointment of a planning officer to prepare one development plan for the three counties.  However, after some discussion, it was decided that each county council should appoint its own planning officer to prepare a development plan for each authority.  John C. Hall, who acted as County Architect, was appointed County Planning Officer for Selkirkshire County Council in September 1948 and given authority to employ additional staff to carry out the statutory duties required by the new Act.  All planning applications were submitted to the County Clerk, W T Dundas and considered by the Planning Committee, John C Hall and subsequently his son, John B Hall, providing planning advice.  George Ovens, who would later move to Roxburgh County Council and eventually become its Depute County Planning Officer, and Harold Hudson, were set to work on the preparation of the first development plan for Selkirkshire.

By October 1950 a draft development plan had been produced for discussion with Galashiels and Selkirk Town Councils.  Trunk road proposals were a significant issue, particularly in relation to the A7.  The Ministry of Transport had proposed a by-pass for Selkirk prior to the Second World War and, following the publication of the Regional Plan for Central and South-East Scotland in 1946, consulted both Roxburgh County Council and Selkirkshire County Council on a new trunk road linking the A68 and the A7 between Newtown St. Boswells and Galashiels involving a by-pass to Melrose and a new bridge over the River Tweed in the vicinity of Kingsknowes.  Whilst Selkirkshire County Council and Selkirk Town Council welcomed a by-pass for Selkirk, both the County Council and Galashiels Town Council had concerns over the impact on Galashiels of the proposed new link between the A68 and the A7.  Both the County Council and Galashiels Town Council favoured a by-pass to the west of the burgh involving a new road from the vicinity of the Tweed Bridge, on the A7 south of Galashiels, via Hollybush and Mossilee to cross the Gala Water and railway line at Wood Street and connect with the A7 at Torwoodlee.  The Ministry of Transport did not favour this expensive solution and also pointed out that such a route would not serve the traffic arriving at Kingsknowes from the A68 along the new link road.  Much to the consternation of the County Council and the Town Council, the Ministry of Transport proposed a new road through the centre of Galashiels from Abbotsford Road through Bank Street Gardens and the rear of High Street (involving the demolition of the old town hall) and Island Street, to connect with Wood Street and thence across the Gala Water to Torwoodlee.  Meetings between the County Council, the Ministry of Transport and the Department of Health ensued throughout 1950 and 1951.

The County Development Plan for Selkirkshire, one of the first to be produced in Scotland, was submitted to the Secretary of State in March 1953.  It was based on retaining a stable population in the landward area with small increases in Galashiels and Selkirk; with a target 1973 county population of 22,169 compared with a 1951 population of 21,724.  Local authority housing in Galashiels was concentrated in the Balmoral area and at Wester Langlee (to include a new school).  Sites for private housing were allocated at Ladhope and off Abbotsford Road at Binniemyre, Sunningdale and Brunswickhill.  In Selkirk, local authority housing was concentrated at Bannerfield.  In Galashiels, the plan included a proposed new bus station in the station yard to replace the use of the Market Place.  As regards the route of the A7, the county council wished to include a by-pass to the west of Galashiels, which would aid the development of the Hollybush area in the longer term, but the Ministry of Transport prevailed and the development plan included a new road through the centre of Galashiels.  The Secretary of State approved the development plan in April 1955, subject to the area at Sunningdale only being identified for longer term development after construction of the new link road.

On submission of the development plan to the Secretary of State, Harold Hudson sought pastures new and left the employ of John C Hall.  George Ovens also left and moved to Roxburgh County Council, to be replaced by Duncan Laing, who took up the position of Junior Planning Assistant.  However, it seems that during the 1950s it was impossible to attract suitably qualified planners to the Scottish Borders (Selkirk County Council was not alone, for Roxburgh County Council experienced the same difficulties) and there were no suitable candidates to fill the post vacated by Harold Hudson.  Therefore, throughout the mid-1950s there was only one dedicated member of staff, Duncan Laing, to support the County Planning Officer in providing advice on planning applications.  Work had also fallen behind on the Quinquennial Review of the Development Plan, a requirement of the 1948 Planning Act, so when Duncan Laing left in September 1957 and his position could not be filled, John C Hall was given authority to employ other staff within his practice on planning work.  Consequently, two people who would become well-known Border characters would emerge onto the planning scene; Frank Entwistle, an architectural technician within John C Hall’s practice, who took over responsibility for the review of the development plan, and John Gray, who had been taken on as an apprentice draughtsman in June 1956.  Frank Entwistle’s involvement in planning in Selkirkshire would continue until the re-organisation of local government in 1975, after which he would establish his own architectural practice.  John Gray would become an established figure in planning in the Borders and would subsequently pursue a career with the Borders Regional Council after 1975, eventually becoming a prime mover in the economic development of the region.

Throughout the late 1950s, work continued on the Quinquennial Review of the Development Plan against the background of a continually falling rural population, largely due to the mechanisation of agriculture.  In the period 1951 to 1961, the population of the county declined by some 700 persons.  Much emphasis was placed on the modernisation and expansion of existing industries and the encouragement of new industries to Galashiels and Selkirk.  Overspill agreements were negotiated with Glasgow Corporation to attract additional workers to meet the needs, particularly for female workers, of the traditional tweed and knitwear industries.  Large areas in Galashiels and Selkirk were identified for local authority housing.  Proposals were set out for the extension northwards of the Riverside Industrial Area in Selkirk along Dunsdale Road with a new junction on the A7 north of the Toll.  Outline plans were drawn up for the redevelopment of Selkirk town centre (the area bounded by Market Place, Kirk Wynd, Back Row and Tower Street), involving the demolition of some 150 unfit houses.  The county council continued to push for a by-pass to Galashiels but the Scottish Home and Health Department would not agree to the inclusion of a by-pass in the Quinquennial Review.

The next post will examine the Quinquennial Review, submitted to the Secretary of State in May 1964 and approved in January 1968, in some detail and will also look at the impact on planning in Selkirkshire 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.


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.


Planning in the Scottish Borders: County Planning becomes established

This second post on the history of planning in the Scottish Borders looks at the progress made by the four Scottish Border County Councils in establishing a planning system for the area.  The Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act 1943 extended the control of development beyond those areas which were the subject of a planning scheme to cover the whole of a local authority’s area.  As a consequence, Planning Committees were set up by Selkirk, Roxburgh and Berwickshire County Councils in 1944 [the first meeting of Selkirk County Council’s Planning Committee was held on Thursday 28 October 1943 but it was at the second meeting on 18 January 1944 that it appointed its first Chairman, Major Scott Plummer, and conducted its first business].  It would be 1948 before Peeblesshire County Council established its Planning Committee.

The first task for the new committees was to initiate surveys of their area (of the use of land, the use and condition of buildings, the provision of services such as water and drainage, gas and electricity, school provision and bus routes) and establish systems for dealing with planning applications submitted under the Interim Development powers conferred by the 1943 Act.  In the first instance, Planning Committees were advised by the County Clerk, assisted by the County Surveyor or County Architect, but private architect firms would soon be employed to carry out the initial surveys of their areas and provide advice on planning applications.  Selkirk County Council employed John C Hall, Architect of Galashiels, to undertake the initial survey of the county.  John C Hall, and subsequently his son John B. Hall, trading as J & J Hall, Architects of Galashiels, would become County Planning Officer for Selkirk County Council.  Roxburgh and Berwickshire County Councils would follow the same practice of employing local architects.  There were only eighteen qualified town planners working in Scotland in 1950, most of whom were in the Department of Health for Scotland.  Frank Tindall, appointed County Planning Officer of neighbouring East Lothian County Council in 1950, would be one of the first County Planning Officers in Scotland, but it would be the 1960s before Roxburgh and Berwickshire County Councils appointed County Planning Officers and Peeblesshire County Council would be advised by the County Planning Officer of Midlothian County Council.

As explained in the first post on the history of planning in the Scottish Borders, the recommendations contained in the Barlow, Scott and Uthwatt reports produced during the Second World War indicated that a complete overhaul of the planning system was required to allow reconstruction after the war.  The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947 heralded a new era of planned society and introduced a universal requirement to obtain planning consent for any development.  The Act gave wide ranging planning powers to the four county councils in the Scottish Borders: as well as the power to approve or refuse development proposals, they must prepare development plans; they could also carry out redevelopment themselves and they could use compulsory purchase powers to buy land and make it available for development by developers.  They were also given powers to control outdoor advertisements, preserve woodland and buildings of architectural or historic interest.

County development plans for the four counties in the Scottish Borders were approved by the Secretary of State for Scotland between 1955 and 1965.  The Selkirkshire County Development Plan, one of the first in Scotland, was approved in April 1955 (having been submitted to the Scottish Office in March 1953); the Peeblesshire County Development Plan quickly followed (submitted in June 1953 and approved in December 1955).  County development plans for Berwickshire and Roxburghshire would not be approved until February 1965 (the Berwickshire County Development Plan was submitted in December 1960, the Roxburghshire County Development Plan in December 1961).  These Plans would be updated by review and amendment during the 1960s; a Quinquennial Review of the Selkirkshire County Development Plan would be approved in January 1968 (submitted in May 1964) and a number of amendments would be made to the Roxburghshire County Development Plan, principally in relation to development in the burghs of Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso.

These county development plans were prepared against the background of a declining population, particularly in the rural areas, and a shortage of labour in the predominant industries of the main towns, the Tweed and Hosiery industries.  The four development plans sought to stabilise the population overall and increase the population of the main towns through the allocation of land for housing.  In their original form, the development plans allocated land that would allow for a combined population of 106,000, compared with a 1951 population of 107,575.

The next posts will look in more detail at how the four county councils saw their areas developing during this crucial period of change.


Planning in the Scottish Borders: Origins

This is the first in a series of posts, which will eventually form the basis of a book on the history of town and country planning in the Scottish Borders.  The origins of town and country planning in Britain lie in the dramatic changes in nineteenth-century society caused by the industrial revolution with an influx of people from the countryside into the towns.  Houses and factories were constructed cheek by jowl; there was no control over standards of construction and little or no regard for proper ventilation and sanitation.  Model villages, built by industrial philanthropists, such as New Lanark, the brainchild of David Dale and his son-in-law Robert Owen, showed how workers could be housed in healthy surroundings.  The Public Health (Scotland) Act 1897 gave local authorities powers to secure proper standards of drainage and sewage and regulate the width of streets, space between houses and size of rooms.  However, these powers did not deal with more general land-use problems, such as the proximity of housing and heavy industry.

Until the passing of The Housing, Town Planning, etc. Act, 1909, which applied to Scotland, local authorities did not possess any right or power to control or regulate the development of the towns and districts under their jurisdiction.  The 1909 Act was the first enactment in Great Britain to deal with the subject of town planning.  Under the 1909 Act, local authorities could make town planning schemes for defined areas which were in the course of development or which appeared likely to be used for building purposes.  The Housing, Town Planning, etc. (Scotland) Act, 1919 introduced compulsory town planning schemes for every burgh with a population of 20,000 or more.  However, the largest town in the Scottish Borders, Hawick, had a population of only 16,900 and so this Act had no effect here.  The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1932 extended the scope for planning action by enabling all local authorities to make planning schemes for almost any land.  However, planning schemes were very inflexible and the prospect of having to pay heavy compensation to those who sustained financial loss in consequence of such a scheme deterred many authorities from making planning schemes.  No action was taken in the Scottish Borders under this Act.

In the 1930s, major land use problems began to emerge nationally; urban sprawl and ribbon development attracting most attention.  A series of Royal Commissions set up during the Second World War looked into specific problems relating to the control of development in anticipation of the need to rebuild the country after hostilities had ceased.  The Barlow Report (1940) recommended the decentralisation of population and industry.  It led to the establishment of new towns such as East Kilbride and Glenrothes in Scotland.  The Scott Report (1941) called for local planning to become compulsory and the approval of the local authority to be required for new development.  The Uthwatt Report (1942) recommended that all land should be brought within development control to prevent development prejudicial to post-war reconstruction plans.

The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947 sought to give effect to the recommendations contained in the Barlow, Scott and Uthwatt reports.  These Acts were the foundations of the modern town and country planning system.  Under the 1947 Acts, planning permission was required for the development of land and local authorities were given wide ranging powers: as well as approving planning proposals, they must prepare development plans; they could also carry out redevelopment themselves and they could use compulsory purchase powers to buy land and make it available for development by developers.  They were also given powers to control outdoor advertisements, preserve woodland and buildings of architectural or historic interest.

In Scotland, Patrick Geddes (1854-1932), biologist, sociologist, geographer, philanthropist and pioneering town planner, advocated a regional approach to planning that took account of the complex relationships between people and their environment.  This approach bore fruit in 1943 when the wartime Secretary of State for Scotland, Tom Johnston, asked Sir Frank Mears, architect and planning consultant, Patrick Geddes’ son-in-law, to prepare a regional plan for central and south-east Scotland, which included the Scottish Borders.  His Regional Survey and Plan for Central and South-East Scotland was published in 1946.  It was one of three major regional plans for Scotland’s post-war reconstruction; the others were the Clyde Valley Regional Plan 1946 by Sir Patrick Abercrombie and Robert Matthew and the Tay Valley Plan 1950 by Robert Lyle and Gordon Payne.

Sir Frank Mears’ report recommends some far-reaching proposals for the future development of central and south-east Scotland, including a new Forth Road Crossing and by-pass for Edinburgh and a new town in Fife (Glenrothes).  The report provides a comprehensive assessment of the population, economy and land use of the Scottish Borders and sets out proposals for the future planning and economic development of the area.  At the time, there was a shortage of labour in the Tweed industry and the report warned that the progress of existing industries and any prospect of introducing new small-scale industries was handicapped by lack of housing.  The decline in population experienced since 1871, particularly the decline in the younger age groups, would accelerate unless housing was provided on a generous scale.  In order to co-ordinate future action, the report 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 site outside St. Boswells could be developed as an assembly plant for the hundreds of pre-fabricated houses required after the war.  In Berwickshire, where rural depopulation was particularly severe, a development commission would be established to encourage rural industries; at Eyemouth, a new harbour would be constructed to provide improved facilities for the fishing industry.  The report also draws attention to the inadequacy of east-west road communications through the Tweed Basin (a recurring theme in subsequent development plans), and suggests a major new road link between Berwickshire and Lanarkshire utilising improved existing roads but also including by-passes for St. Boswells/Newtown St. Boswells, Melrose and Galashiels in the central borders and Walkerburn and Innerleithen in Peeblesshire..

The Mears report would pave the way for the preparation of the first county development plans by Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire County Councils.  However, in many respects, the Mears Report was too radical, some might say too academic, in its approach to the future development of the region and did not take due account of the historic pattern of development and local politics.  Consequently, few of its recommendations would find their way into the new County Development Plans.  In the second post on the history of town and country planning in the Scottish Borders, we shall see how the local authorities envisaged the region developing in the subsequent years.