Local Development Plan 2: Main Issues Report 2018

As detailed in my September 2018 post, Scottish Borders Council approved the Main Issues Report (MIR) for the review of the Local Development Plan on 30 August 2018.  The MIR has now been published and is available online at www.scotborders.gov.uk/ldp2mir.  Hard copies are available to view at Council Headquarters at Newtown St. Boswells during normal office hours and at all Council Contact Centres and Libraries.  The public consultation period continues until 31 January 2019.

The MIR identifies the key development and land use issues which the new local development plan (LDP2) must address and sets out preferred options for tackling these issues.  Key issues include:

  • regeneration of town centres;
  • opportunities for growing the economy;
  • housing land provision;
  • employment land provision;
  • delivery of infrastructure;
  • delivering sustainability and addressing climate change; and
  • promotion of quality building design;

Public participation and community engagement is a key part of the development plan process.  The MIR and the accompanying Environmental Report has now been formally advertised in the local press and there will be wide consultation with all key agencies, neighbouring authorities and community councils, local organisations and businesses.  A programme of afternoon drop-in sessions and evening workshops has been organised across the Scottish Borders at the venues below:

  • Newcastleton, Village Hall: 13 November (drop-in session, 2.00-6.00pm);
  • Kelso, Sainsbury’s foyer: 15 November (drop-in session, 2.00-5.00pm);
  • Kelso, Town Hall: 15 November (workshop 6.00-8.00pm);
  • Selkirk, 1 Tower Street/pop-up shop: 19 November (drop-in session, 2.00-5.30pm);
  • Eyemouth, Co-op, High Street: 21 November (drop-in session, 2.00-5.00pm);
  • Eyemouth, Community Centre: 21 November (workshop, 6.00-8.00pm);
  • Peebles, Burgh Hall, High Street: 26 November (drop-in session, 2.00-5.00pm);
  • Peebles, Burgh Hall, High Street: 26 November (workshop, 6.00-8.00pm);
  • Duns, Council Chambers, Newtown Street: 27 November (drop-in session, 2.00-5.00pm);
  • Duns, Council Chambers, Newtown Street: 27 November (workshop, 6.00-8.00pm);
  • West Linton, Village Centre: 28 November (drop-in session, 2.00-6.00pm);
  • Galashiels, Tesco foyer: 29 November (drop-in session, 2.00-5.00pm);
  • Galashiels, Transport Interchange: 29 November (workshop, 6.00-8.00pm);
  • Newtown St. Boswells, Council Chambers, Council HQ: 12 December (workshop, 6.00-8.00pm);
  • Hawick, Morrisons foyer: 13 December (drop-in session, 2.00-5.00pm);
  • Hawick, Heritage Hub, Kirkstile: 13 December (workshop, 6.00-8.00pm);

No booking is required for the afternoon drop-in sessions but the council asks that people wishing to attend the evening workshops let the local plans team know by contacting localplans@scotborders.gov.uk or ringing 01835 826671.  Remember, if you don’t make your views known, they can’t be considered.

 

Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP): September 2018

The council’s Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) was adopted, originally, in 2001 and has been updated by a series of Habitat Action Plans produced between 2003 and 2010.  The LBAP forms the basis for the council’s Supplementary Planning Guidance for Biodiversity, approved in November 2006, and provides guidance on the implementation of policy EP3: Local Biodiversity, in the adopted Local Development Plan.  An updated LBAP, which has been prepared to take account of changes in national policy, was approved by the Planning and Building Standards Committee of Scottish Borders Council on 3 September 2018.

The updated LBAP is organised around the priority themes of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (SBS), which was amended in 2013 in response to both the UN Convention on Biological Diversity targets set in 2010, to halt biodiversity loss and restore the natural environment to health, and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2020.  The SBS themes outline six steps for nature to achieve the 2020 challenge:

  • Ecosystem restoration;
  • Investment in natural capital;
  • Quality greenspace for health and education benefits;
  • Conserving wildlife in Scotland;
  • Sustainable management of land and freshwater; and
  • Sustainable management of marine and coastal ecosystems.

The updated LBAP takes account of the challenge of climate change, which may disrupt our ecosystems and their ability to provide beneficial services such as water flow regulation to reduce flooding, improvement to water quality, sequestration of carbon on peatlands and woodlands and pollinating services to help food production.  The LBAP seeks to help address the key pressures identified in the SBS: pollution, land use intensification and modification, spread of invasive species and wildlife disease, lack of recognition of the value of nature, disconnection with nature and marine exploitation.  A set of actions has been developed focussed around the six themes set out in the SBS, for delivery within the period 2018-2028 with some actions prioritised for delivery within 5 years.  By updating the LBAP, the council hopes to demonstrate that it is seeking to put in place good practice, working with its partners, to meet its duties in relation to biodiversity and climate change.  The updated LBAP will provide up-to-date and relevant guidance on how ecosystems can be valued and assessed as part of policy development in the local development plan.

The updated LBAP will be the subject of public consultation in parallel with the consultations on the recently approved Main Issues Report (MIR) prepared to identify the key issues to be addressed in the new local development plan LDP2).  The updated LBAP will ultimately form proposed Supplementary Guidance in the new local development plan (LDP2).  Biodiversity may seem, to many, to be a rather bewildering subject but protecting and maintaining the natural environment, habitats and wildlife is essential for our future on planet earth.  We can all play our part so get involved in the forthcoming discussions on the Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP).

Local Development Plan 2: Main Issues Report, September 2018

Scottish Borders Council approved the Main Issues Report (MIR) for the review of the Local Development Plan on 30 August 2018.  The new Local Development Plan (LDP2) will replace the adopted Local Development Plan 2016.  It will guide future development for the period 2021 to 2026.  The MIR is not a draft version of the LDP2 but a consultation document which sets out the key issues for consideration.  It draws together the findings of the Call for Sites from potential developers, the results of a number of public events and workshops held in 2017, and consultations with statutory bodies and other council departments.  It takes account of national planning requirements and the strategy and policies in the latest Strategic Development Plan (SESplan2), which has recently been the subject of Examination by Reporters from the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA).  Their recommendations have been submitted to Scottish Ministers and a decision on their recommendations is expected by the end of 2018.

The Main Issues Report (MIR) focusses on the issues to be addressed in the new local development plan and sets out the council’s proposed and alternative approaches to planning and development under the following headings:

  • Vision, aims and spatial strategy;
  • Growing the economy;
  • Planning for housing;
  • Supporting town centres
  • Delivering sustainability and climate change agenda;
  • Regeneration
  • Settlement maps and
  • Planning policy issues.

According to the MIR, the population of the Scottish Borders will increase from an estimated 115,020 in 2017 to 116,777 by 2026.  There will be a marked increase in the proportion of the population over 65 years old, with a 31% increase in the number of people aged 75 and older, which will have an increasing impact on health, housing and social care provision.  Based on the population projections, additional housing will be required to address the needs of the older population and the growth in smaller households (those of one or two persons).

The main employment sectors in the Scottish Borders are health and social work, retail, construction, education, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and public administration.  The Scottish Borders continues to rely on traditional rural activities focussed on agriculture, forestry and fishing.  In terms of industrial activity, there is an adequate supply of employment land in most parts of the Scottish Borders but there is a continued low take-up through development.  Nevertheless, there is a recognised need to allocate further employment land within the Peebles area and in Galashiels.  The provision of high amenity business land in the Central Borders is seen as essential to capitalise on the investment in the Borders Railway.  The council continues to support the promotion of the line extending to Carlisle as well as an improved service for Berwickshire with a rail halt at Reston.  In addition to transport, digital connectivity remains vital to the future development of the Borders and it is critical that the region benefits from maximising the provision of Full Fibre Connectivity to businesses and the wider community.

The role of town centres is changing and vacancy rates continue to increase.  In the Scottish Borders, retail vacancy rates and performance are patchy.  Measures need to be considered to keep town centres in the Scottish Borders viable and vibrant.

Infrastructure provision will be required to enable future development.  New housing allocations can also put a strain on education provision.  However, given the limited number of additional houses required within the LDP2 period, it is not envisaged that this should be an insurmountable problem, except perhaps in the Peebles catchment.

Delivering sustainable development and ensuring a high quality of design for all developments are key requirements of Scottish Planning Policy and the LDP2 must reflect these requirements.  LDP2 must also promote a low carbon future and help the Scottish Government achieve climate change targets.  It must promote economic stability and growth whilst protecting the built and natural intrinsic values of the Scottish Borders.

The Strategic Development Plan (SESPlan) requires strategic growth in the Scottish Borders to be directed to three growth areas: the Central Borders, the Western Borders (centred on Peebles) and Berwickshire.  The Central Borders growth area focusses on Galashiels, Melrose, Earlston, Kelso, Jedburgh, Hawick and Selkirk.  It is the primary area for growth within the Scottish Borders; it is at the centre of the roads network and served by the Borders railway.  In the Western Borders, Peebles is attractive to prospective house builders but potential flood risk issues and the need for a second bridge over the River Tweed prior to any further land being released for housing on the south side of the river, limit options for development.  In Berwickshire, growth is focussed on Duns and Eyemouth.

In relation to growing the economy, the Blueprint for the Border Railway seeks to maximise employment opportunities along the railway corridor.  A masterplan has been prepared for Tweedbank, including the Lowood Estate, which offers a range of development opportunities.  A masterplan has also been prepared for Galashiels town centre, which outlines a number of potential redevelopment opportunities.  The Hawick Action Plan identifies a range of opportunities to develop and improve Hawick as a place for working, living and visiting.  One of the main challenges is to find new employment land for business and industry in the vicinity of Peebles because of topographical constraints, flood risk issues, traffic congestion issues and the need for a new bridge to allow development south of the Tweed.  An independent study has identified site options which are set out in the MIR.

Public engagement is a key part of the development plan process.  The MIR and the accompanying Environmental Report will be formally advertised in the local press and will be made available for a consultation period of 12 weeks.  It will be placed on the council’s website and made available for inspection at all public libraries and council Contact Centres.  There will be wide consultation with all key agencies, neighbouring authorities and community councils, local organisations and businesses.  It is proposed to hold a series of ‘public surgeries’, which will include an exhibition, across the Scottish Borders.

So keep an eye out for the announcements (and follow this website).  Remember, if you don’t make your views known, they can’t be considered.

It will be the autumn of 2019 before the proposed new local development plan (LDP2) is completed.  It will then be the subject of consultation before submission to Scottish Ministers.  Any unresolved representations will be the subject of Examination by a Scottish Government Reporter from the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA), probably during the summer of 2020.  The conclusions and recommendations of the Reporter must be taken into account before the local development plan is adopted by Scottish Borders Council.  It is anticipated that the new Local Development Plan (LDP2) will be adopted by the summer of 2021.  Once adopted, LDP2 will replace the current Local Development Plan, adopted on 12 May 2016.

The Planning (Scotland) Bill 2017

The Planning (Scotland) Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 4 December 2017 sets out the Scottish Government’s proposals for changes to the overall framework under which planning operates.  The Bill seeks to re-focus the planning system on enhancing community engagement and reducing and simplifying procedures and processes.  Key proposals include:

  • Abolition of strategic development plans, with the national planning framework forming part of the development plan;
  • Abolition of statutory supplementary planning guidance;
  • Local development plans to be in place for a period of 10 years rather than 5 years, with the right to amend them during that time;
  • Scottish Planning Policy to be incorporated into the national planning framework, to be reviewed every 10 years; and
  • Creation of Local Place Plans produced by a community body.

The Scottish Government proposes that Strategic Development Plans should be replaced by more proactive regional working partnerships.  However, there is little detail or clarity on how these regional working partnerships would operate and how tensions at the regional/strategic planning level would be resolved within the proposed enhanced National Planning Framework.

The Bill proposes changes to local development plans, suggesting that the plan period should be extended to ten years instead of the present five years; that the process for preparing local development plans should be shortened by the removal of the need for a Main Issues Report (to be replaced by a draft plan); and that supplementary planning guidance should be dispensed with.  The object of these and other changes is to provide stronger local development plans that deliver development.

Local Place Plans (LPPs) are one of the Scottish Government’s key proposals aimed at improving public engagement and involvement in the planning system.  The Government hopes that LPPs will provide an avenue for communities to feed into the development plan system.  However, there are concerns as to how LPPs interact with the local development plan and clear guidance will be needed on the form and content of LPPs, and how LPPs should be developed and submitted to the planning authority.  Interesting times ahead!

To improve the development management process, the Bill proposes changes to the pre-application process for major and local developments and changes to the scheme of delegation which are likely to extend the scope of appeals that would be made to the local review body rather than to Scottish Ministers.  Some may welcome these changes, others may be concerned at the prospect of more decisions on major developments being taken locally.

To improve the performance of planning authorities, the Bill proposes that councillors involved in planning decisions will be required to undertake training on planning matters and councillors that have not completed such training would be barred from undertaking such duties.  It may be that councillors already undertake some form of informal training but it would be difficult to argue against the need for proper training for those who are charged with the responsibility of discharging planning decisions.  In the Scottish Borders, the full council is responsible for the approval of the local development plan so it could, perhaps, be argued that the whole council should undertake such training, not just the members of the planning committee and the local review body.  Watch this space.

The Bill does not include any reference to third party appeals.  There has been a long-running campaign for the introduction of a limited third party right of appeal where those who have objected to a proposal that has been granted planning permission can request a review of the decision.  Scottish Ministers are opposed to the creation of a third party right of appeal.  The Scottish Government’s view is that:

“It is far more appropriate and more constructive to have stronger early engagement, involving people in the shaping of their areas, as provided for through the changes to development planning, the introduction of LPPs and more effective pre-application consultation. A third party right of appeal would increase delay and uncertainty through to the end of the planning process, running counter to the whole thrust of the Bill and wider review of planning in streamlining and front-loading the system”

The Bill is presently passing through Parliament.  The Bill completed Stage 1 on 29 May 2018 and consideration of the Bill at Stage 2 is scheduled to commence on 12 September 2018.  It will be next year (2019) before we have a better idea of what the Planning (Scotland) Act might look like.

 

 

Development Management: July 2018 Update

During July 2018, the Scottish Borders Council received 126 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees.  Two Proposal of Application Notices for major developments in the region were submitted in July:

A Proposal of Application Notice has been submitted for residential development on land south of Craignethan, Newtown St. Boswells (the site at the junction of Eildon Road and Sprouston Road) (SBC Ref: 18/00886/PAN).  The site is identified for residential development in the adopted local development plan with an indicative capacity of 68 houses.  A public consultation event is planned for the 4 September 2018 in the Newtown Community Wing, to be held between 11.00am and 6.30pm.  Details should appear in the Southern Reporter on 23 August 2018.

A Proposal of Application Notice has been submitted for a development by Berwickshire Housing Association of 49 mixed tenure dwellinghouses on land off Summerhill Park, Beanburn, Ayton (SBC Ref: 18/00968/PAN).  A previous public consultation event on a proposed development on this site took place in June 2017.  A further public consultation event, including an exhibition of the design proposals, is planned for the week commencing 17 September 2018 in Ayton Primary School.  The PAN provides no details of the specific date or time for the public consultation event but details should be provided within a press advertisement in the Berwickshire News at least seven days before the planned public event.

A public exhibition on the proposed development of holiday lodges, hotel and golf driving range at the Roxburghe Golf Course, submitted on 20 June (SBC Ref: 18/00799/PAN), is to be held at Heiton Village Hall on 7 August 2018 from 4.00pm to 7.30pm.

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.

During July 2018, the council decided 113 applications, only two of which were refused by the Chief Planning Officer, under delegated powers.  An application for the renewal of planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land near Linthill Cottages, Linthill, Melrose (SBC Ref: 18/00644/PPP) was refused on 23 July.  Although planning permission had previously been granted in July 2015 for a dwellinghouse on the site, this had expired.  Planning policy on housing in the countryside has changed since 2015 as a result of the adoption of the Scottish Borders Council Local Development Plan 2016 (LDP).  The policy on replacement dwellings in the countryside has been significantly revised and the Chief Planning Officer considered that the proposal is now contrary to the strict requirements of policy HD2 of the LDP.  It will be interesting to see if this decision is challenged through the Local Review Body and, if so, whether the LRB takes the same view on the non-conformity of the proposal with the LDP.

An application for the change of use of part of Unit 8 at Tweedside Park, Tweedbank (the former Plexus Facility) to form a gymnasium, children’s soft play area and associated café (SBC Ref: 18/00635/FUL) was refused planning permission on 26 July on the grounds that the proposed uses are not appropriate to a building located within a strategic business park safeguarded for uses falling within Business Classes 4-6.  It will be interesting to see if this decision is also challenged by referral to the Local Review Body.

At its meeting on 16 July, the Council’s Local Review Body (LRB) decided to reverse the Chief Planning Officer’s decision to refuse planning permission for the change of use and alteration of agricultural buildings to form eleven dwellinghouses at Hutton Castle Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire and granted planning permission subject to 12 conditions, informatives and a legal agreement in respect of the payment of a financial contribution towards education facilities and affordable housing in the locality (SBC Ref: 18/00013/RREF & 16/01371/FUL).  The LRB upheld the Chief Planning Officer’s decisions to refuse planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land south west of 1 Hill Terrace, Stow (SBC Ref: 18/00014/RREF & 17/01734/PPP) and for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land north west of Doonbye, Smith’s Road, Darnick (SBC Ref: 18/00015/RREF & 18/00287/FUL).

At its meeting on 16 July, the Planning and Building Standards Committee considered a report by the Chief Planning Officer on the relaxation of the town centre Core Activity Area Policy (Policy ED4 of the LDP), as it applies particularly to Galashiels and Hawick.  The committee agreed to certain changes in the practice of implementing this policy.  For more information on the implications of these changes, see the post on ‘Town Centre Policy: Amendments to practice for processing planning applications, July 2018’.

On the subject of wider planning issues, the Examination of the Proposed South East Scotland Strategic Development Plan, submitted to Scottish Ministers in June 2017, has been completed by Reporters appointed by Scottish Ministers and their report was submitted to Scottish Ministers on 20 July 2018.  The Reporters appointed to undertake the examination considered twenty-five unresolved issues and it is now for Scottish Ministers to consider the report and decide whether or not to approve the plan, with or without modifications.  For more information on the implications for the Scottish Borders, see my post on ‘Proposed Strategic Development Plan 2017’.

During July, the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) received an appeal against the imposition of two conditions to a planning permission, granted by the council on 26 March 2018, for the erection of two wind turbines on land at No. 6 Lamberton Holdings in Berwickshire.  The conditions relate to the requirement to remove the turbines within 25 years.

Five appeals remain to be determined against the refusal of planning permission: (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 the erection of a poultry building at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2065); (4) for the erection of a poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2062); and (5) a residential development of 38 dwellings at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2059).

Scottish Ministers have called-in for determination the application by Eildon Housing Association for residential development at Huddersfield Street, Galashiels in view of the proposed development’s possible significant level of flood risk (SBC Ref: 17/00695/FUL) (DPEA Ref: NA-SBD-054).  A hearing session has been arranged, to be held on Wednesday 15 August at 10.00am in the Waverley Suite at the Transport Interchange, Galashiels.

The public inquiry to be held in relation to the refusal of planning permission 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), which was to commence at 10.00am on 24 July 2018 in the Novotel Hotel, Edinburgh Park (near the Gyle), has been cancelled as un-necessary following agreement on the suspensive conditions required in relation to Edinburgh Airport radar.

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).  The Reporter’s reports in relation to the two Fallago Rig applications have been submitted to Scottish Ministers and their decision is awaited.  In relation to the Birneyknowe application, the Reporter hopes to be in a position to submit the report to Scottish Ministers in August.

 

Town Centre Policy: Amendments to current practice for processing planning applications, July 2018

The Scottish Borders Local Development Plan 2016 (LDP) supports a wide range of uses appropriate to town centres in Duns, Eyemouth, Galashiels, Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose, Peebles and Selkirk.  However, in order to protect the vitality and viability of the ‘Core Activity Areas’ of these town centres, policy ED4 of the LDP restricts acceptable uses in these areas to Class 1 (shops) and Class 3 (food and drink establishments) of the Use Classes Order.  Proposals for uses within Class 2 (financial, professional and other services) of the Use Classes Order are only acceptable where they contribute positively to the core retail activity of the area and are assessed against the following criteria:

  • How the proposed use would contribute to joint shopping trips;
  • Footfall contribution;
  • Current vacancy and footfall rates;
  • Longevity of vacancy;
  • Marketing history of premises; and
  • Ability to retain shop frontage.

Policy ED4 also indicates that decision making on what uses are acceptable will be guided by research or studies on vitality and viability by the council or developers.

Only a relatively small part of the region’s town centres are identified as ‘Core Activity Areas’ (CAA).  For instance, in Galashiels, the CAA is limited to the frontages of Bank Street (from Bank Street Brae to Cornmill Square), the west side of Market Street between Cornmill Square and Overhaugh Street, both sides of Channel Street between Park Street and the Market Square, and the Douglas Bridge development.  Channel Street west of Park Street, the whole of High Street and Island Street, lie outwith the Galashiels CAA and there are no such restrictions on proposed uses in these streets.  In Hawick, only the frontages of High Street between Cross Wynd and Baker Street are identified within the CAA.  The High Street south of Cross Wynd, Bourtree Place, North Bridge Street, the Sandbed, Tower Knowe/Silver Street, Howegate and Commercial Road all lie outwith the Hawick CAA and there are no such restrictions on proposed uses in these streets.

At present, the CAA policy allows uses such as shops, hairdressers, travel agents, dry cleaners and laundrettes, restaurants, cafes, snack bars, public houses and even car sales on the identified frontages.  Uses such as betting offices, beauticians, nail salons, tattooists, estate agents, photographic studios, dog groomers, vets, dental surgeries, solicitors, accountants, financial/mortgage advisors and other professional services are only acceptable where they contribute positively to the core retail activity of the area.  Some of these uses do exist in the core activity areas of the Border towns, however, for they were in existence before the policy was first devised in the 1970s and 1980s, and some of these uses have been allowed where the council considered that the proposal would contribute positively to the core retail activity of the area.  For instance, in April, 2018, the Local Review Body reversed the decision of the Chief Planning Officer to refuse planning permission for a change of use from retail to dog grooming practice of 38 Bank Street, Galashiels, which is within the CAA, and granted planning permission on the grounds that the proposed use would contribute positively to the core retail activity of the area.  Earlier this month, planning permission was granted for a change of use from retail to dog grooming salon at 9A Bank Street, Galashiels which, although located on Bank Street, lies outwith the Galashiels CAA.  On the other hand, planning permission was refused in May 2018 for the change of use of a retail unit to a tattoo studio at 52 Bank Street, Galashiels, within the CAA.  The change of use of retail units at Douglas Bridge to a Job Centre was approved in November 2017 on appeal by a Scottish Government Reporter, who considered that the proposed use, although not as desirable as a retail use, would make a positive contribution to the core retail function of the CAA.

In Hawick, planning permission was granted in August 2017 for the change of use of 52 High Street, which is within the Hawick CAA, from retail to coffee shop.  Planning permission was granted in April 2018 for the change of use of 53 High Street, Hawick, which is also within the Hawick CAA, from retail to form a restaurant with takeaway.  Outwith the CAA, planning permission was granted in January 2017 for the change of use of 34 North Bridge Street from office to dog grooming parlour.  No planning applications for such uses in the Hawick CAA have been refused in recent years.

There is, quite clearly, a measure of flexibility in the present policy that enables the council to allow a variety of non-retail uses within Core Activity Areas, each proposal being considered on its merits against the criteria set out in policy ED4 of the LDP.  However, following a study by the Planning Department to examine ways to revitalise and re-invigorate the town centres of Galashiels and Hawick, the Planning and Building Standards Committee at its meeting on 16 July 2018 agreed to the removal of the restrictions imposed by the CAA designation in Hawick and to a relaxation in the way CAA policy is implemented in Galashiels for a trial period of one year.  It is also proposed that, within Galashiels town centre, the requirement for developer contributions to affordable housing and education provision would be temporarily removed for one year.  Contributions to the Borders Railway must remain as they are a statutory requirement.  There would, however, be a general presumption in Hawick and Galashiels against anti-social uses within these town centres which may have detrimental impacts on the amenity of residential property and other uses.

To be more specific, proposals in the Hawick CAA will simply be tested against LDP policy ED3, which allows a mix of uses in town centres.  Proposed changes of use from retail to a range of financial and professional office uses and other service uses, such as a betting office, beauticians, dog groomers and tattooists will not need to be assessed against the criteria in policy ED4, such as footfall contribution and longevity of vacancy.  In Galashiels CAA, these proposed changes of use will continue to be assessed against the criteria in policy ED4.  Potential uses identified in the report prepared by the Planning Department that could, however, be considered more favourably are: betting office, beautician, nail salon, estate agent, dog groomers and tattooists.  The report also sets out further guidance in relation to two of the criteria listed in policy ED4; the judging of applications in terms of the longevity of vacancy and the marketing history of the premises, which should be taken into account when assessing proposals within the Core Activity Areas of Galashiels and the other identified towns in the Borders.  The report also indicates that in assessing the contribution that a proposed use makes to the Core Activity Area, the economic benefits of the proposal, the footfall it is likely to generate and how active the proposed frontage is, would be taken into account.

These relaxations have been welcomed but only time will tell whether the changes proposed will have any significant effect on the vibrancy and vitality of Galashiels and Hawick town centres.  It will be interesting to see how many proposals for the change of use of retail premises to other uses come forward in the Galashiels and Hawick Core Activity Areas within the next year and whether there is any significant change in footfall or a reduction in vacancy rates as a result.  I look forward to seeing the report back at the end of the trial period.

 

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.