FLEXIBILITY is the name of the game when it comes to preliminary plans by Berwickshire Housing Association to build 60 new houses on land at Earlsmeadow, Duns - 45 of the houses would be sold at market price and 15 would be affordable homes for rent or to buy.
As a Registered Social Landlord (RSL) the housing association would normally concentrate on providing social housing but with funding proving to be ever more difficult, building market value houses alongside social housing is seen as a way of funding the affordable housing; the land is outside the Duns town boundary which would normally mean that planning permission will be difficult to come by; and although the area is likely to be identified in the region’s new Local Plan for mixed use, developing the land at such an early stage of the Plan review is unusual.
Despite all this, Berwickshire Housing Association has put in an application for planning permission in principle to Scottish Borders Council for the 60 houses, plus an extension of the road and footpaths to the site to the west of Duns, beyond the existing playing field and a short distance north of recently constructed supported housing, developed by the housing association.
Duns Community Council was given a presentation about the project at their meeting last month, and public consultation has already started.
To overcome the issue of it being outside the town boundary Berwickshire Housing Association will need to meet criteria that allows councillors to consider an application an exception to their accepted development policies: that it would be a job-generating development with economic justification; it is an affordable housing development that can be justified; there is a shortfall identified by Scottish Borders Council through the housing land audit with regard to the provision of an effective five year housing land supply; and it would offer significant community benefits that outweigh the need to protect the development boundary.
In their supporting statement for the application Berwickshire Housing Association state: “There would be an important contribution to the local economy through the development of housing on the site. As well as construction jobs, local building materials suppliers and professional services companies would benefit from this economic activity.
“The new houses would provide a mix of new opportunities for local people to continue living in Duns and for new residents to move to the town. 25% of the dwellings would provide affordable local housing solutions.
“Retaining and increasing the population will help to support existing services and facilities which employ local people.
“There is an acknowledged need for affordable housing at Duns.
“In addition to providing affordable housing and local employment, the proposal could deliver significant developer contributions towards open space provision. This could assist with the delivery of the proposed wetland area and boardwalk, which are being promoted by the Scottish Borders Council and Duns Community Council.”
And giving their reasons for building market value houses as well as social housing Berwickshire Housing Association’s supporting evidence adds: “The market housing on this site would contribute significantly towards the funding of new affordable homes on the site. The Scottish Government is strongly encouraging the construction of new affordable homes and is seeking innovative and flexible approaches to delivery. A degree of flexibility in terms of this policy could assist in achieving delivery of new affordable homes.”
SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) are satisfied that the site is not at risk from flooding despite the wetland area on the northern boundary of the site which is low lying and prone to flooding.