We’ve all the room we need in the Borders

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Scottish Borders Council has rebutted claims that it has made insufficient land available for new housing over the next decade.

In its Local Development Plan (LDP), setting out policy for future land use, the council says there are enough sites in the region to accommodate 13,422 new homes by 2025. This includes an extra 630 plots, on 15 sites, allocated in the latest version of the plan which is awaiting ratification from Scottish ministers.

But in representations to the Scottish Government’s Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA), construction industry pressure group Homes for Scotland says it does not accept the local authority’s statistics and recommendations.

The organisation claims the 630 figure is at least 3,709 short of the 4,399 it believes is required. To give that aspiration some context, there are 4,034 households in Peebles.

Three DPEA reporters have been considering the details and implications of the LDP since last October and are due to submit a final report to Scottish ministers next month.

In their latest submission in defence of its housing allocations, SBC planners state: “In overall terms, the Scottish Borders provides a large and generous housing land supply, in part to meet the diverse geographies of the area, but also reflecting the council’s desire to promote economic development. The total established supply is substantially in excess of current demand.”

SBC claims the 1,837 new-house completions in the region in the five years from 2009 to 2014 have fallen well short of the requirement of 4,825. In 2014, there were just 288 new-house completions.

“The significant decrease in completions across the Borders is a result of the economic downturn … many of the sites under construction have stalled due to lack of developer and mortgage finance,” states the council, adding: “The release of further land would not solve the issue of market demand.”

Scottish ministers are, however, expected to be mindful of the future role of the Borders in helping meet the predicted 25% increase in Edinburgh’s housing need between now and 2030.

Councillor Stuart Bell, SBC’s executive member for economic development, said: “Much of that need will be driven by economic activity in and around the city and while we want to see some of the benefits coming to the Borders – enhanced by the Borders Railway and the expected East Coast Main Line connection at Reston – none of the Borders communities want to be swamped with new housing.

“It could be we have already identified much of the land which would be required to accommodate the forecast growth.”