WHEn they bought their cottage in Coldingham in 2005, Alan and Elaine Dalgleish thought it would be the perfect retreat away from the hustle and bustle of Newcastle. But they never imagined that their time in the village would be overshadowed by a long-running dispute over tourist signs.
The couple are objecting to road signs being placed at the bottom of their garden, but the dispute has yet to be resolved. The council says it is “entitled to erect the signs on the edge of this garden” but insists it is “making efforts to see if the signs can be located elsewhere.”
The Dalgleishs moved north after Elaine’s uncle, the previous occupant of Melville Cottage, sadly passed away. He left shares of the property to various relatives but after visiting him regularly and growing fond of the property, Alan and Elaine bought the rest of the family out to become sole owners.
But not long after settling into their new home, the couple’s peace was disturbed by a council employee putting a sign up at the bottom of their garden.
Naturally, they were taken aback by what they saw, but they never expected that a dispute would begin between themselves and Scottish Borders Council, and continue as long as it has.
Alan told The Berwickshire News: “We were sitting having a cuppa one day when we saw this guy out of the window putting a sign up. Unsure of what he was doing I went and spoke to him but his reply was ‘we can put a sign wherever we want’.
“Months later during a particularly windy night the sign blew off and fell into the road. I didn’t think I’d be strong enough to lift it so I contacted Eyemouth Police Station to say it was in the middle of the road and could be dangerous.
“Somebody came out, picked the sign up and threw it back into our garden before it was eventually taken away.”
Things remained status quo from then until April 27 last year when the remaining signs and the poles which they were attached to went missing, with the Dalgleishs believing they were taken by opportunist metal thieves.
However, one of the signs was directing visitors to nearby Priory View Guest House on Eyemouth Road and on finding it has disappeared, the owner got in touch with the council.
After being told to expect replacement signs to go up in spring and feeling they were getting nowhere with SBC, Alan and Elaine raised the matter with Coldingham Community Council chair Rhona Goldie who suggested they attend at the next community council meeting.
Unfortunately, after initially feeling optimistic, Alan and Elaine didn’t feel like they had the support of the local body so started to look elsewhere for support, contacting the Scottish Government and all other councils across Scotland to see their policy on signs being erected on private land.
“We felt like we were banging our head against a brick wall,” Elaine explained.
“It was as if inferences were being made that we had something to do with the signs going missing which isn’t true. Of the 32 councils across Scotland that we got in touch with 18 replied with all of them saying they wouldn’t put signs on someone’s property full stop or without permission.
“We’re objecting to the signs on the grounds of visual impact - we’re always in our garden and we don’t want to be looking at big signs. You can also see them from our sitting room window.
“We’re not satisfied that they are directional signs – they’re advertising signs in our opinion.”
A statement from a Scottish Borders Council spokesperson confirmed that the local authority have the right to erect signs on private property although they added that efforts had been made to bring matters to an amicable conclusion.
They told The Berwickshire: “Four separate road and directional sings have been sited at this location for many years, with some form of signage there since 1975. Over the last three years all four signs have disappeared. The Council believed that the issue involved a simple replacement of the signs which have been removed.
“However, it is clear that Mr and Mrs Dalgleish have very strong views on the return of any signage. In light of this, SBC has made strenuous efforts to resolve this matter by negotiation but, to date, those efforts have not resulted in a resolution.
“Legally, SBC is entitled to erect the signs on the edge of this garden as the Roads Authority can give the necessary consent under the planning regulations.
“Notwithstanding, the Council is still making efforts to see if the signs can be located elsewhere, while continuing to give the necessary guidance to drivers.”