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.

Development Management: Christmas 2017 update

During December 2017, the council received 91 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees.

Of particular interest to those who reside in Lauder and Lauderdale  is the proposal for a tourism development of up to around 500 static and 50 touring caravans, with associated facilities, on land at Thirlestane Castle known as The Ranch, located to the north of the burgh on the east side of the A68.  A public exhibition of the proposals is to be organised in Lauder on some, as yet, unspecified date (SBC Ref: 17/01669/PAN).  Another interesting proposal in the Lauder area is a proposal for a falcon breeding facility with chambers and quarantine area on land at Woodheads Farm on the south side of the Galashiels Road opposite the golf course (SBC Ref: 17/01644/FUL).

Another tourism development is proposed for Peeblesshire, with the receipt of a planning application for the erection of a holiday complex comprising 56 timber cabins, central hub, cycle store and managers accommodation on land at Kittlegairy Hill, north of Linnburn Farmhouse at Glentress, outside Peebles (SBC Ref: 17/01633/FUL).  Proposals have also been received for the demolition of the existing service station on Innerleithen Road, Peebles and the redevelopment of the site with a new filling station and shop (SBC Ref: 17/01694/FUL).

Another development that is likely to benefit tourism in the Borders, more particularly in Galashiels, is the proposal for a hotel, residential and retail development on the former Burgh Yard at Braw Lads Brae in Galashiels (SBC Ref: 17/01597/PPP).  Few details are available and it remains to be seen whether this proposal will become a reality.

Of interest to those in Duns is the application by Trust Housing for 30 Extra care self-contained flats with communal facilities and 19 amenity bungalows on land west of Todlaw Road (SBC Ref: 17/01710/FUL).

During the same period, the council decided 99 applications, only seven of which were refused planning permission.  Five of the refusals of planning permission related to the erection of dwellinghouses, either in the countryside or in small settlements.  In relation to approvals, of particular note is the proposal for the demolition of flats and two dwellinghouses, owned by Eildon Housing Association, at Tweedbridge Court, Peebles (17/01529/HON.  These were constructed in the early 1970s and have outlived their useful life.  No proposals have been lodged with the planning authority for the redevelopment of the site but the site is earmarked for housing redevelopment on the local development plan.

The Local Review Body (LRB) met on 18 December to consider requests for the review of three decisions made by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers to refuse planning permission.  Two of these decisions: in relation to the change of use of agricultural land to form a storage yard and the siting of seven storage containers at Greenbraehead, Hawick (SBC Ref: 17/00046/RREF); and the change of use from retail (Class 1) to a mix of Class 1 and Class 2 to allow a Podiatry Clinic at 40-41 The Square, Kelso (SBC Ref: 17/00047/RREF), were overturned and planning permission was granted.  In the case of the proposal for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land adjacent to Deanfoot Cottage on Deanfoot Road, West Linton, the LRB upheld the decision of the Chief Planning Officer to refuse planning permission (SBC Ref: 17/00045/RREF).

As previously intimated, the Planning and Building Standards Committee, at its meeting on 6 November, refused planning permission for the construction of a wind farm comprising 12 turbines at Pines Burn, south west of Hobkirk against the advice of the Chief Planning Officer (SBC Ref: 17/00010/FUL).  As expected, an appeal against this decision has now been submitted to the Scottish Ministers (the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2069).  An appeal has also been submitted in relation to the refusal of planning permission by the Planning and Building Standards Committee on 2 October 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).  An appeal has also been submitted in relation to the refusal of planning permission by the Planning and Building Standards Committee at the same meeting for residential development on land to the east of the Edinburgh Road in Peebles (SBC Ref: 17/00015/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2067).

Five other appeals remain outstanding, in respect of (1) a proposed poultry building at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2065); (2) the erection of a poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2062); (3) the erection of storage and distribution buildings and an ancillary dwellinghouse on land outside Dolphinton (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2063); (4) a residential development of 38 dwellings at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2059); and (5) a proposed windfarm of eight turbines at Howpark, Grantshouse, also in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2060).

Four applications for windfarms, submitted to the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the 1989 Act, to which the Scottish Borders Council has objected, remained to be determined at the end of November.  An inquiry into the application for a 14 turbine wind farm at Whitelaw Brae, near Tweedsmuir in Peeblesshire was held in September 2016.  Scottish Ministers have now made their decision on the report of the inquiry and have decided to approve this controversial proposal much to the dismay of the local MP, David Mundell, the local community and outdoor organisations such as Mountaineering Scotland and the John Muir Trust (see DPEA case reference WIN-140-4).

An inquiry into the application for a 12 turbine extension to the existing Fallago Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills and the application to extend the operational life of the existing wind farm to coincide with that of the extension (if approved) was held in August 2017.  The details of both cases can be found on the DPEA website (case references WIN-140-5 & WIN-140-6).  It will be 2018 before a decision on these applications is forthcoming.  An application for the erection of 15 wind turbines on land at Birneyknowe, near Bonchester Bridge, south-east of Hawick, to which the Scottish Borders Council, the community council, many residents of the local community and others have objected is to be the subject of further examination.  A pre-examination meeting to discuss and agree the scope and programming of the subsequent inquiry and hearing was held in the Hawick Rugby Club Rooms on 25 October 2017.  The inquiry and hearing sessions have been provisionally programmed for March 2018 so this case has a long way to run (see DPEA case reference WIN-140-7).

Well, 2018 is going to be an interesting year; 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.  We shall have to wait and see.

Renewable Energy Development: Wind Farm Guidance

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

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

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