Development Management Update: September 2020

The council’s Planning Department remains closed to the public with case officers working remotely from home.  Nevertheless, new planning applications continue to be registered and are being processed in as normal a way as possible; applications continue to be publicised on the council’s website and in the local press.  Perhaps the most notable thing to happen this month has been the replacement of the Chair of the Planning and Building Standards Committee.  At its meeting on 27 August, the Council approved changes to the titles and responsibilities of its senior councillors with Simon Mountford, Councillor for Kelso, being appointed the Executive Member for Enhancing the Built Environment and Natural Heritage (previously Planning and Environment), and Chair of the Planning and Building Standards Committee and Local Review Board (LRB).  Tom Miers, Councillor for Leaderdale and Melrose, has been removed from his chairmanship of the committee and the LRB and, indeed, from both committees!  He has been replaced on the committee by Donald Moffat, a long-standing member from Coldstream.

According to the local press, Tom Miers had no fore-knowledge of the proposed change by the council’s ruling group and has no idea why he was removed from his chairmanship of the Planning and Building Standards Committee;  “I’ve had no real explanation of why I was removed” he told the Border Telegraph.  Apparently, council leader Shona Haslam, who proposed the change, regarded Mr. Miers as an “excellent” planning chairman.  The council leader has, for a couple of years, wanted to bring the environment into more of a central focus of the council.  Clearly, the powers that be felt that Tom Miers was not the man to do it.  How appointing Simon Mountford in place of Tom Miers will help to achieve this, will have to be seen.

In September, some 140 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.  There were a number of interesting applications, however: (i) the demolition of a dwellinghouse (Balgownie) in Newtown St. Boswells and its replacement by 13 dwellinghouses (SBC Ref: 20/01070/PPP); (ii) the erection of 13 dwellinghouses on land at Stagehall, Stow (SBC Ref: 20/01053/FUL) [this application replaces a previous application for 16 dwellinghouses which has been withdrawn]; and (iii) the erection of a factory and office facility on land at Tweedbank Industrial Estate previously set aside as a landscape strip alongside the A6091 to screen the industrial estate (SBC Ref: 20/01019/FUL).  In Galashiels, an application has been submitted for a certificate of lawful use for the unrestricted use (24 hours) of the McDonald’s Restaurant on Wilderhaugh.  Planning permission for the take-away was granted in October 2000 without any time restrictions.  Currently it is open from 5.00am to midnight.  Anti-social and litter issues have been associated with the premises in the past.

There has been a surge in wind farm applications recently, for both on-shore and off-shore developments.  In September, an application was submitted for a scoping opinion on a proposed development of 27 turbines with a maximum height to blade tip of 200 metres, on land west of the Crook Inn in Upper Tweedsmuir (SBC Ref: 20.01071/NECON).  The Grayside Wind Farm would be located immediately north of the Clyde and Clyde Extension Wind Farms in South Lanarkshire (which comprise some 200 turbines) and west of the Glenkerie and Glenkerie Extension Wind Farms, which overlook the A701 Moffat to Edinburgh Road.  The council has also been consulted on an application to Scottish Ministers for a 242 off-shore wind farm development, with a maximum blade tip height of 310 metres (the Berwick Bank Wind Farm), which lies some 40km east of the East Lothian coast.

Also in Peeblesshire, a Proposal of Application Notice has been received by the council for a proposed sand and gravel working on 35 hectares (80+ acres) land to the west of Slipperfield Loch, South Slipperfield, near West Linton (SBC Ref: 20/01158/PAN).  West Linton and Lamancha, Newlands and Kirkurd Community Councils have been consulted.  Details of the proposal are available for viewing and download from the agent, Dalgleish Associates Ltd.’s website  It is proposed to undertake a live and interactive web-based consultation on Tuesday 20 October 2020 between 6.00pm and 8.00pm.  A link to the consultation will be placed on the Dalgleish Associates webpage at least 48 hours prior to the event.  A public notice will be placed in the Peeblesshire News advertising the pre-application consultation and the interactive web-based consultation.  So don’t miss it if you are interested in this major proposal on the edge of the Pentland Hills!

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 determined by the Chief Planning and Housing Officer under delegated powers in September, less than 100 decisions, continues to fall below the number of applications received.  Consequently, the backlog continues to grow as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.  No applications were refused planning permission by the Chief Planning and Housing Officer under delegated powers.

The Planning and Building Standards Committee met, remotely by Microsoft Teams, on Monday 7 September and considered seven planning applications; approving five of them, one was refused and one was continued for further information.  The committee granted planning permission for: (i) the erection of an office and storage building at Gunsgreen Quay, Eyemouth in connection with the Neart No Gaoithe off-shore wind farm (SBC Ref: 20/00523/FUL); (ii) the construction of a slurry lagoon at Legars Farm Hume, near Kelso (SBC Ref: 20/00413/FUL); (iii) erection of 4 dwellinghouses at The Orchard, Back Road, Newstead, near Melrose (SBC Ref: 19/01138/FUL); (iv) erection of dwellinghouse at the former police station on Greenside Park, St. Boswells (SBC Ref: 19/00819/FUL); and (v) car parking on a site at St. Boswells Toyota Garage, required because of COVID-19 social distancing requirements, with planning permission as a demonstration and training area for electric/hybrid cars (SBC Ref: 20/00611/FUL).  The committee refused planning permission (by 5 votes to 2) for the erection of a dwellinghouse on a small infill site near Lower Green in West Linton.  Interestingly, this decision was against the recommendation of the Chief Planning Officer to approve the application and against the wishes of the new Chair of the committee, who seconded the motion to approve the application as per the officer recommendation.

Also at its meeting on 7 September, the Planning and Building Standards Committee was made aware of the preparation of two Indicative Regional Spatial Strategies (IRSS); the Scottish Borders is in a unique position in that it is involved in two such spatial strategies, required to inform the Scottish Government in its development of a National Planning Framework for the whole of Scotland.   The IRSS for the South of Scotland has been prepared jointly with Dumfries and Galloway Council and the IRSS for the South East of Scotland in association with the other five authorities that comprise the South East of Scotland Plan Area (SESplan) (City of Edinburgh, West Lothian, Midlothian, East Lothian and Fife Councils).  Regional Strategies replace the previous joint Strategic Development Plans prepared by the SESPlan Authorities.  Both strategies were presented to the full council at its meeting on 25 September (see separate report on Development Planning: September 2020!)

The Local Review Body met on 21 September, conducted remotely by Microsoft Teams, to consider two appeals against refusals of planning permission by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers.  The LRB reversed both of the Chief Planning Officer’s decisions and granted planning permission for: (i) the erection of 15 holiday huts on land at Wester Deans, West Linton [North Clioch] in Peeblesshire (SBC Ref: 19/01256/FUL & 20/00019/RREF); and (ii) the siting of 3 glamping pods on land at Stouslie Farm, south of Hawick (SBC Ref: 20/00343/FUL & 20/00021/RREF).  There has been a recent explosion in applications for glamping pods and similar holiday accommodation in the more remote parts of the Scottish Borders recently, most of which have been approved.  Changed days from the 1970s and 1980s when planning policy was to restrict dispersed hutted development in the countryside and seek to consolidate such developments to specific locations with easy access from the main tourist routes and where services and facilities could be provided.

In relation to appeals to Scottish Ministers, two appeals to Scottish Ministers remains outstanding.  As expected, an appeal has been submitted 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 (SBC Ref: 20/00067/FUL & DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2081).  A previous application for a similar development was refused planning permission on 2 September 2019; an appeal to Scottish Ministers against that refusal was ruled out of time because it was not submitted within 6 months of the date of refusal by the council, thus prompting the repeat application.  The repeat application was refused by the Planning and Building Standards Committee on 3 August for similar reasons to the previous decision [on the grounds that the proposed holiday lodges are not in keeping with the local environment and would have an unacceptable adverse impact on local infrastructure, specifically the capacity of local roads].

The appeal against the council’s decision to refuse planning permission for the erection of 8 wind turbines at Wull Muir, Heriot also remains outstanding (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2080).  An unaccompanied  site inspection has now been held and the Reporter is writing up his decision.  The application for a proposed retail store and restaurant on Commercial Road, Hawick, notified to Scottish Ministers because of flooding concerns, is also proceeding (DPEA Ref: NA-SBD-056).  The Reporter has confirmed that he should be in a position very shortly to submit his report to Ministers, who will make the final decision in this case..

Following the receipt of objections from Scottish Borders Council in April 2019, a hearing was held on 10 March 2020 in Duns in relation to an application 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.  A test light was fitted to an existing turbine and the Reporters viewed the test light between 8.30pm and 9.00pm from the vicinity of Whitekirk in East Lothian.