Past Issues and Major Campaigns
Local Plan Public Inquiry of 2006-2007
The Public Inquiry Reporters largely agreed with us about most of the ring of nine Contested Sites for future housing in the central Tweed valley between Galashiels and Newtown St. Boswells.
Five of them were thrown out, including Netherbarns, a site on the opposite bank of the Tweed to Abbotsford House; and two were modified.
Only two were wholly approved—one of which, at Easter Langlee has subsequently had its housing numbers increased by 50% to 450, despite being unsustainably situated, closer to the centre of Gattonside than to Galashiels, and producing nearly a kilometre eastwards extension of the urban environment along a pretty section of the River Tweed. We have nominated it as our Carbuncle of Planning.
Netherbarns Public Inquiry of March 2007
Before the Local Plan Public Inquiry had even considered the suitability of the Netherbarns site, Scottish Borders Council had in May 2006 controversially approved an application to build 79 houses there.
The decision was called in by the Scottish Ministers, resulting in a Public Inquiry at which that planning permission was reversed.
Edinburgh City Region
In the autumn of 2007 we were one of only three conservation groups who responded to the National Consultation about the proposal for the setting up of City Regions; and the new Authority that would produce Strategic Plans for Edinburgh City Region..
We were concerned by the breadth of their remit and the loss of control the Scottish Borders would suffer, not just in matters of housing quotas--fearing that much inappropriate development, of dormitory housing, wind-farms etc. would be "dumped" on the Scottish Borders.
Crematorium at Wairds, by Melrose
In 2009 Scottish Borders Council was unstoppably minded to secure a crematorium on the lower slopes of the Eildon Hills, within Scotland’s fifth smallest National Scenic Area.
This was against the wishes of the local Community Council; the local Minister of the Kirk; and Scottish Natural Heritage.
It was fought unsuccessfully at both the Local Plan Amendment stage and when the developer submitted a Planning Application before the suitability of the site had been decided through that Local Plan Amendment process.
The Scottish Government declined to call it in despite letters of protest about the process as well as the decision.
One of our Committee members subsequently raised a Petition to the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.
Refurbishment of Abbotsford House
In 2010 the House’s Trustees embarked on a Project involving partial Change of Use and the provision of a Visitor Centre with associated Car Park.
Although we had some reservations about aspects of the original design for the Visitor Centre, we were on the whole very supportive of the Abbotsford Project and made an offer, which was accepted, to help with its publicity and fundraising.
Local Landscape Designations
The overdue review of locally-designated areas, previously termed locally by Scottish Borders Council as Areas of Great Landscape Value, has in the main been well received, although with some reservations about teeth and commitment. Essentially it identifies valued landscapes through an objective assessment process and results in an overall increase in total area of proposed protection.
It was put out for Consultation in 2011, Adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance in 2012 and can be found at: http://www.scotborders.gov.uk/directory_record/20043/local_landscape_designations
Scott’s Woodland Heritage around Abbotsford
We were pleased at the news that the Royal Scottish Forestry Society is planning to advise The Abbotsford Trust about the further management of the 15 hectares of woodland that still remain in their ownership, with the joint production of a Forest Plan for Abbotsford.
Netherbarns and Darnick/Broomilee Sites
These two sites, thrown out at previous Public Inquiries bounced back again as proposals for inclusion in the Proposed Local Development Plan of December 2013.
The Netherbarns site, on the opposite bank of the Tweed to Abbotsford House, was again proposed for substantial housing.
The Darnick site, to the west of the Borders General Hospital, and alongside one of the main approaches to Scott’s Managed Landscape, was proposed as a Mixed Use site.
These were two elements in the Proposed Local Development Plan Examined by the Scottish Government's Planning Reporters at the DPEA from October 2014.
The full details of their October 2015 Report of Examination can be found at:
We welcomed the Reporter's decision not to allow Netherbarns to go forward as housing land.
On the other hand, we had concerns for the approval of the Darnick site, albeit subject to further consideration.
May 2016 Adoption of Local Development Plan
More worrying on a major scale from the Government's Examination in 2015 were controversial, radical rewritings of two important elements of the Local Development Plan:
Firstly--concerning Renewables/Wind Energy and resulting in the overturning of Scottish Borders Council's well-developed strategy and policies in favour of an imposed, national/generic approach.
Secondly--an artificial recalculation of Housing Allocation Numbers, leading to a directive to accommodate an extra 916 houses. This was to be addressed by Scottish Borders Council producing a Supplementary Planning Guidance within one year.
We were concerned that both these departures could result in further, serious threat to local landscape and amenity--and so we were dismayed that the Council's resulting proposals targeted the landscape and communities of the Central Borders yet again.
Indeed, the preferred sites for nearly 40% of these extra houses were within two miles of Abbotsford House and Scott's Managed Landscape.
We urged the Council to use Alternative Sites they had identified, but they did not and this Supplementary Guidance on Housing was Adopted in November 2017.
It can be found at www.scotborders.gov.uk/housingSG
Scottish Government's Planning Review
The Report of the Independent Panel had one glaring omission in that it recommended against adoption of an Equal Right of Appeal (ERA), continuing the relative disadvantage suffered by local people compared to developers.
The proposed Planning Bill that was put before the Scottish Parliament in December 2017 did not back the idea either.
However, various organisations, including those who gave evidence to the Panel, are campaigning for ERA, giving evidence to the Parliamentary Committeee during Scrutiny etc. and we continue in support of this movement.
Further discussion can be found on the website of Planning Democracy: