St Abbs Harbour bunkhouse gets planning permission

A BUNKHOUSE at St Abbs Harbour, to be used by walkers, divers, bird-watchers and fishermen, has been given planning permission.

The T shaped single storey building in the harbour area itself will provide self-catering holiday accommodation on the site where there are currently two timber storage sheds.

A larger two storey building to provide accommodation for divers had previously raised concerns amongst a number of local people, its central site at the harbour at the heart of the objections, and applicant Jim Vanko hoped that the smaller single storey building would be more acceptable.

There had been six letters of objection to the two storey plan. The reasons given: that the development would be visually inappropriate in the conservation setting because it was a two storey building and because of the proposed roofing materials; that the building was too large for the small plot of land available; concern about the relationship of the new building with existing nearby buildings; demolition of the old building and replacement with a modern building did not represent ‘conservation’; loss of one or two remaining traditional fishing huts is undesirable; no space provided for equipment storage; unsupervised car parking; and that the entrance to the bunkhouse would be a road hazard.

After the new plans for the smaller building were advertised only one of the original objectors wrote to the council continuing their opposition. This time - parking, the adverse impact on existing residents in the harbour area due to the noise levels by the bunkhouse occupants, materials used for the building, and the view that the development would harm the character of the fishing village - were given as reasons why the single storey building shouldn’t be given planning permission.

When the planning application came before Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee on Monday this week, East Berwickshire councillor Jim Fullarton commended the change of use to form the bunkhouse at St Abbs harbour, calling the objections an “aye been versus business” argument.

He said a bed and breakfast in the village had recently become a private house resulting in a shortage of accommodation for visitors, particularly divers.

“Mr Vanko runs a very successful tourism business with his glass-bottomed boat and this is an adjunct to that business,” said Councillor Fullarton. “This bunkhouse is really needed and is not, in my view, too big. It will be a first class asset for St Abbs.”

Asked by chairman Jock Houston if he thought the felt roof was appropriate, Councillor Fullarton said: “There is a range of roof designs in St Abbs, from traditional pantiles and slates to felt, which is what is proposed here. They sit well together. Variety is the spice of life.”

In his report to councillors, planning officer John Hiscox said: “Diving, fishing, bird-watching and walking are pusuits which are integral to the local economy of St Abbs village, its community, its tourism industry and its wider network with the coastal community at locations such as Cove, Eyemouth and Coldingham.

“In principle, the provision of additional accommodation to provide overnight accommodation for these visitors engaged in these activities would be consistent with policy objectives and is to be welcomed.

“Acknowledging that the site forms part of a working harbour with some commercial activity, the proposed use is not inconsistent, and therefore the most critical policies are those relating to protection of the landscape setting and protection of the residential amenity.”

Recommending approval Mr Hiscox added: “None of the issues raised in objection to the scheme would give rise to any justification to resist the proposals as they now stand.”