Development Management: September 2018 update

During September 2018, the Scottish Borders Council received over 150 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees.  There seems to be no end to the desire of wind farm operators to expand the number of wind turbines in the Scottish Borders; another wind farm proposal has been submitted for the Moorfoot Hills.  A Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) was submitted on 6 September for a wind farm of up to 9 turbines with tip heights up to 150 metres at Wull Muir, north of Carcant Lodge, near Heriot (SBC Ref: 18/01164/PAN).  An application for a Scoping Opinion on the same proposal was received on 24 September (SBC Ref: 18/01308/SCO).  In this case, the applicant has voluntarily decided to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prior to the submission of an application and has formally requested the opinion of Scottish Borders Council on the Scoping Report, which sets out the matters that should be included in an EIA.  The Scoping Report provides an outline of the environmental receptors that the developer considers may be significantly affected by the proposed development and the application for a Scoping Opinion invites comments on the scope of the proposed EIA.

Bearing in mind the attitude of the council’s Planning and Building Standards Committee on the recent proposal for a wind farm at Gilston Farm, Heriot and to other proposed wind farms in the area, the Wull Muir proposal is unlikely to be received with much enthusiasm.  No doubt the proposal will figure on a future agenda of the Council’s Planning and Building Standards Committee.  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.

Whilst on the subject of wind farms, it will come as no surprise to see that the Planning and Building Standards Committee, at its meeting on 3 September, refused planning permission, against the Chief Planning Officer’s recommendation, for the construction of a wind farm comprising 7 turbines up to 132 metres high to tip height on land at Barrel Law, north west of Roberton (SBC Ref: 17/01255/FUL).  This was a revised proposal, following the withdrawal of concerns expressed by the Ministry of Defence over possible interference with radar at RAF Spadeadam in Cumbria and seismic monitoring at Eskdalemuir, near Langholm.  However, although the Chief Planning Officer recommended approval, the Committee decided on a vote of 5 votes to 2 to refuse the application on the grounds that the proposal would have significant and adverse impacts and effects on the landscape.  Is another appeal to the Scottish Government likely?

On the subject of wind farm appeals, official figures from the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division show that, over the past 16 years, 250 wind turbine applications refused by Scottish Councils have been the subject of appeals to Scottish Ministers.  Of these 250 appeals, 104 (41.6%) were successful and planning permission was granted.  In the Scottish Borders, 9 of the 21 appeals dealt with were successful.

The Planning and Building Standards Committee at its meeting on 3 September granted listed building consent for the demolition of St. Aidan’s Church and Church Hall in Galashiels (SBC Ref: 18/00309/LBC).  Planning permission and listed building consent had been granted in October 2015 for the demolition of the church hall and the conversion of the church into eleven flats.  However, it was submitted that the repair and conversion of the church is not economically viable, the property has been marketed with no serious interest from prospective purchasers.  Unfortunately, it would appear that demolition and redevelopment is the only alternative!

At its meeting on 17 September, the Local Review Body (LRB) overturned the decision of its Chief Planning Officer to refuse planning permission for the change of use of 37 Bank Street, Galashiels from a shop to a mortgage advisers (SBC Ref: 18/00764/FUL; 18/00018/RREF).  The Chief Planning Officer had determined that the change of use was not permissible under the council’s recently approved Pilot Scheme because it offered an inactive frontage and low footfall.  The LRB considered that although the proposed use did not fall within the range of uses identified in the Pilot Scheme, the proposed business would complement other uses in Bank Street and would make a significant positive contribution to the viability of the town centre.  The Local Review Body also overturned the Chief Planning Officers decision to refuse planning permission for the change of use of 52 Bank Street, Galashiels to a tattoo studio (SBC Ref: 18/00398/FUL; 18/00020/RREF).  The LRB considered that, whilst the tattoo studio did not fall within the extended acceptable use categories listed in the Pilot Scheme, policy Ed4 of the approved LDP allows other uses where they make a demonstrable contribution to the retail function of the town centre.  In this instance, the LRB was satisfied that it had been demonstrated that the business would make a significant positive contribution to the town centre and that a sufficiently persuasive case had been made to allow the business.  It will be interesting to see how many more proposals for the change of use of retail premises to other uses come forward in the Galashiels Core Retail Activity Area and whether there is any significant measurable change in footfall or a reduction in vacancy rates as a result.

During September, some 100 applications were dealt with by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers.  In Berwickshire, planning permission was granted for the erection of 27 affordable dwellinghouses on a site off Station Road, Duns (SBC Ref: 18/00337/FUL) and for the erection of 25 dwellinghouses, a new village hall and formation of playing field on land south and west of Swinton Primary School (SBC Ref: 12/01488/PPP).  Three planning applications were refused: (1) an application for replacement windows on a property in North Hermitage Street, Newcastleton (SBC Ref: 18/00211/FUL); (2) an application for an isolated house in the countryside, near Chapel Farm, between Midlem and Lilliesleaf (SBC Ref: 18/00956/FUL); and (3) an application for a dwellinghouse on a site east of Keleden, Ednam (SBC Ref: [the Local Review Body granted planning permission in principle for a dwellinghouse on the site in July 2018 but the Chief Planning Officer considers that the layout, siting and orientation of the proposed building makes poor use of the plot and the size and scale of the proposed house is too large].

During September, the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) reached a decision on the appeal against the imposition of two conditions on the planning permission, granted on 26 March 2018, for the erection of two wind turbines on land at No. 6 Lamberton Holdings in Berwickshire.  The appealed conditions relate to the requirement to decommission and remove the turbines within 25 years (SBC Ref: 17/01348/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2071).  The Reporter decided to vary the appealed conditions and, given the scale and location of the proposed foundations, deleted the requirement to remove the foundations and restore the site to its original condition when electricity generation ceases.

An appeal against the council’s refusal to issue a Certificate of Lawful Use of a property used in the past as a guest house, as a dwellinghouse, at Camptown, south of Jedburgh was submitted on 25 September 2018 (DPEA Ref: CLUD-140-2002).  An interesting case for the DPEA!

Four appeals remain to be determined against the refusal of planning permission: (1) 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); (2) for the erection of a poultry building at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2065); (3) for the erection of a poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2062); and (4) a residential development of 38 dwellings at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2059).

The hearing session in connection with the application by Eildon Housing Association for residential development at Huddersfield Street, Galashiels, which was called-in for determination by Scottish Ministers in view of the possible flood risk (SBC Ref: 17/00695/FUL) (DPEA Ref: NA-SBD-054) was held on Wednesday 15 August in the Waverley Suite at the Transport Interchange, Galashiels.  It is expected that the Reporter’s report and recommendations will be submitted to Scottish Ministers in October.

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.  The Reporter dealing with the Birneyknowe wind farm application submitted his report to Scottish Ministers on 5 September 2018.