Development Management: September 2019 Update

During September 2019, the Scottish Borders Council received some 120 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees.  The vast majority related to the erection of single dwellinghouses and alterations and extensions to dwellinghouses.  Large scale developments are few and far between at the moment, a reflection of the general malaise in the building industry.

At the southern fringes of the region, in Newcastleton, the Newcastleton & District Community Trust (NDCT) has plans to restore and secure the re-use of Buccleuch House in the centre of the village, built in c.1850 by the Duke of the Buccleuch for community use (see SBC Ref: 19/01315/FUL).  It has been used as a club house, meeting rooms, a craft & resource centre and as a home to a small enterprise.  However, over time it has fallen into disrepair and needs a complete overhaul.  The NCDT plans to upgrade the building to provide, on the upper floor, bunkhouse accommodation for between 10-16 people to cater for the growing walking/cycling market.  On the ground floor, there would be a learning centre, meeting rooms and office space.  It is also proposed to provide on the land attached, a community laundry and secure bike lockers.  Newcastleton Business Forum wholly supports the project but objections, as well as letters of support, have been submitted and it will be interesting to see how this application progresses.

At the northern fringes of the region, in Peeblesshire, another interesting application relates to the erection of 15 huts on land east of Wester Deans, near West Linton (SBC Ref: 19/01256/FUL).  The applicant, Urban Animation, has obtained planning permission for similar developments at Saline and Falkland in Fife in support of the 1000 Huts Campaign launched in 2011 in response to a growing demand from a wide range of people to revitalise the hutting culture in Scotland.  In July 2017, the Scottish Government adopted new Building Regulations to enable hut building without a building warrant.  Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) defines a hut as “A simple building used intermittently as recreational accommodation (i.e. not a principle residence); having an internal floor area of no more than 30m²; constructed from low impact materials; generally not connected to mains water, electricity or sewerage; and built in such a way that it is removable with little or no trace at the end of its life.  Huts may be built singly or in groups”.

The application site forms part of North Clioch Wood and extends to some 5 acres.  Formerly a Forestry Commission Sitka spruce plantation, the site was cleared in 2009 and sold to the current owner, who has undertaken a replanting programme to create a mixed woodland.  Fifteen huts are proposed, each located within a 20 metre square plot, served by a group car parking area.  The huts would be finished with natural timber boarding, have a rectilinear shape and pitched roof finished in green recycled cellulose sheeting.  Heating would be from a wood burning stove; there would be no electricity supply but PV cells could be used to generate low voltage electricity for lighting.  Dry composting toilets would be located in each hut; no mains drainage or septic tank is proposed.  There would be no public water supply to the site.

It will be interesting to see what the local community and council officials make of this somewhat novel proposal for, if approved, there may well be a demand for further similar developments in this part of the Scottish Borders where, in the past, hut sites have been widespread and common-place and still exist at Eddleston, Soonhope, near Peebles and Carlops.

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 September, some 120 applications were determined by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers.  Again, the vast majority related to the erection of single dwellinghouses or to alterations and extensions to dwellinghouses.  One proposal perhaps stands out; the conversion of Castle Venlaw Hotel in Peebles into residential apartments.  On 6 September, the Chief Planning Officer issued planning consent for the partial demolition and conversion of Castle Venlaw Hotel into eight residential apartments and the erection of three flats in the grounds (SBC Ref: 18/01287/FUL & 18/01286/LBC), known as scheme 2, which had been approved by the Planning and Building Standards Committee in March.  A simultaneous application for listed building consent for internal and external alterations to the building to form 11 residential apartments, known as scheme 1 (SBC Ref: 18/00181/LBC) had been referred to Scottish Ministers for determination because of objections from Historic Environment Scotland but this application has now been withdrawn.

Eight applications were refused planning permission by the Chief Planning Officer under delegated powers in September: (i) an application for the erection of two dwellinghouses on land north-east of 10 Railway Court, Newtown St. Boswells (SBC Ref: 19/01146/PPP); (ii) the demolition of an existing dwellinghouse and erection of a replacement dwellinghouse at Woodside Farm, Kelso (SBC Ref: 19/00965/FUL); (iii) the erection of a dwellinghouse at Newton Farm, Jedburgh (SBC Ref: 19/00874/FUL); (iv) the erection of a fence at Denholm Mill, Denholm (SBC Ref: 19/00857/FUL); (v) the erection of a dwellinghouse at Carlenrig Farm, Teviothead, Hawick (SBC Ref: 19/00514/FUL); (vi) the erection of a dwellinghouse at Stow Road, Lauder (SBC Ref: 18/01766/PPP); (vii) the installation of replacement windows at 5-1 Sandbed, Hawick (SBC Ref: 19/00203/FUL); and (viii) the formation of a bus depot at Rhymers Avenue, Earlston (SBC Ref: 18/01018/FUL).

At its meeting on 2 September, the Planning and Building Standards Committee refused two major applications: (i) the development of a holiday park comprising 52 holiday lodges, reception/shop and office on land north west of Willowdean House, Foulden in Berwickshire (SBC Ref: 18/01479/FUL).  The proposal had attracted a great deal of objection and, although the Chief Planning Officer had recommended that the application be approved subject to 15 conditions, the Planning and Building Standards Committee decided to refuse planning permission (by a vote of 6 to 2) on the grounds that the proposed holiday lodges were not of the highest quality, were not in keeping with the local environment and would have an unacceptable adverse impact on local roads.  As a result, the proposed development would be inconsistent with the landscape characteristics of the area and would lead to unacceptable adverse impacts on pedestrian and road safety.  The Committee also refused planning permission for the erection of 57 dwellinghouses on land north east of Berwickshire High School in Duns (SBC Ref: 18/01635/FUL).  The southern half of the site is located within the 1 in 200 year functional floodplain and the eastern part of the site is also at the risk from flooding from an existing culvert and run-off from the main road (the A6105).  The Committee also considered that the proposals were over-engineered and did not create a clear sense of place; the external materials proposed were inappropriate; and there was inadequate landscaping to integrate the development with its surroundings.

The Planning and Building Standards Committee did, however, approve plans for the multi-million pound hotel, petrol station with food kiosk and drive-through café at Tweedbank, against the wishes of many hoteliers in Melrose.  The Borders Gateway development comprises a 71 bed Premier Inn, a BP petrol station and Marks & Spence food kiosk and Costa Coffee drive-through café (SBC Ref: 18/01520/FUL).  The original proposals had also included a large discount food retail unit but this was removed in response to objections and concerns about the impact on existing town centres.  Attracting a Premier Inn to the region has been an ambition of the council for some time and although the Galashiels community would have preferred a site in Galashiels, a site at Tweedbank has the advantage of good road and rail access.  The proposals attracted over 177 supporting comments and only 15 objections.  Councillors considered that the proposed hotel would cater for a different market to the hotels in Melrose.  Although the Chairman of the committee voiced concerns that the site occupied land identified for business and office purposes and moved that the application be refused, the committee voted by 6 votes to 2 votes to approve the application as per the Chief Planning Officer’s recommendation.

The Planning and Building Standards Committee also made a somewhat contentious decision in respect of a condition attached to the erection of a dwellinghouse in the village of Heiton, near Kelso (SBC Ref: 19/00593/FUL).  The condition, attached to a planning permission granted in April 2016, required that an existing right of way which passes along the northern side of the site be maintained open and free from obstruction in the course of development and in perpetuity and shall not form part of the curtilage of the property.  No stiles, gates, steps or barriers to access should be erected to deter or hinder future pedestrian, horse rider or cyclist use.  However, large gates have been fitted at either end of the path through the house site and CCTV cameras monitor its use.  The application requested the removal of the condition from the planning consent and the applicant argued that it was not a relevant planning matter; rights of way are protected in terms of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.  Much to the consternation of many local residents and users of the path, the committee approved the application to remove the planning condition on the grounds that rights of way legislation exists to uphold public access rights and there was no longer a planning purpose of the condition.  However, the committee reiterated that the removal of the condition does not alter the status of the claimed right of way and should not be regarded as support of any proposal to extinguish and divert the path, which would require a separate request under the Land Reform Act.  Watch this space!

The Local Review Body on 16 September considered three appeals against the Chief Planning Officer’s decision to refuse planning permission.  The LRB overturned the officer’s decision and granted planning permission for the erection of three holiday lodges at Hallrule Farm Cottage, Bonchester Bridge (SBC Ref: 18/01680/FUL).  The LRB upheld the officer’s decision to refuse planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse at The Rest, Murrayfield, St. Abbs in Berwickshire (SBC Ref: 18/01654/FUL) and for the use of land at Milkieston Toll House, Peebles as a dog walking facility (SBC Ref: 18/01161/FUL).

In relation to appeals to the Scottish Government, much to the annoyance of householders at Coopersknowe, Galashiels, the appeal by Eildon Housing Association, for the erection of 69 dwelling units at Coopersknowe, Galashiels was upheld on 25 September (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2075).  Some compensation for Eildon for the loss of its appeal against the refusal of planning permission for 40 flats at Tweedbridge, Peebles?

Two other appeals remain outstanding: (i) the long-standing appeal against the refusal of planning permission 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 (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2072); and (ii) the appeal against the erection of 7 wind turbines at Gilston Hill, near Heriot, which has been returned to the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) to re-determine following a successful challenge to the Court of Session to the Reporter’s decision, dated 7 February 2019, to approve the application (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2068-1).

Two wind farm applications submitted to the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the 1989 Act, to which the Scottish Borders Council has also objected, remain outstanding: (1) the application for a 12 turbine extension to the existing Fallago Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills; and (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).  The reports on these appeals have been with Scottish Ministers since July last year (2018).  Following the receipt of objections from Scottish Borders Council in April 2019, an inquiry is to be held in relation on 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).