Councillors relent to flag up Melrose business complex

THE SALTIRE SCOTTISH FLAG.
PIC PHIL WILKINSON / SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY
TSPL STAFF.
THE SALTIRE SCOTTISH FLAG. PIC PHIL WILKINSON / SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY TSPL STAFF.

Plans by a Melrose property developer to fly flags to promote a new business complex have been approved by councillors – nine months after they were first rejected.

Michael Crawford’s firm Rural Renaissance Ltd had sought consent to erect four nine-metre-high flagpoles at the entrance to the former church at West Grove on Waverley Road.

The company, which bought the property to maximise the economic opportunities of the Borders Railway, intends creating commercial offices, conference facilities and a wellness centre on the site, and the flags were part of a programme of external improvements.

But in July last year, the planning bid, which attracted three objections, was rejected by Scottish Borders Council planning officer Stuart Herkes.

Using delegated powers, he deemed that the flagpoles at the front of the building would be “disrespectful” to the character of the surrounding area and have an adverse impact on the nearby Conservation Area.

Mr Crawford demanded a review, contending that the poles, which would not be used for advertising purposes and would fly national flags, were necessary to generate “a welcoming and inclusive” image and would make the building appear “international and cosmopolitan”.

He cited the decision of the council to fly flags outside its Newtown headquarters and said his proposal would help positively promote the Borders.

Mr Crawford said his company had flown national flags from its main office at the town’s Priorwood for many years with pictures reaching thousands of people worldwide when posted on social media.

His appeal was rejected in October and a revised bid was turned down again in December..

On Monday, however, the review body voted 7-2 to approve the revamp and by 5-4 to insist that the number of poles should be reduced to three.

A relieved Mr Crawford said: “Finally, after nine months of planning frustration and seven months since the railway opened, it’s full steam ahead.

“We’re delighted that councillors had the courage to support the regeneration of this redundant building by upholding our appeal.”