Burnmouth building saga

Dismayed Burnmouth residents have hit out after Scottish Borders Council approved plans to demolish a controversial half-finished building in the village - but then gave the developer more time to bring it into line with planning consent.

Members of SBC’s Planning and Building Standards committee unanimously backed a report this week, approving Direct Action to tear down the unauthorised seven flats structure at the West Winds site in Burnmouth, because developer, Robin Lees of Arrowhead Housing, had failed to comply with conditions of retrospective planning consent that was passed in August last year.

The report said: “Given the length of time this unauthorised structure has remained onsite and the failure to meet the terms of the Enforcement Notice it is considered appropriate to initiate direct action works to remove the unauthorised structure....It is proposed that if authority is granted to proceed with the direct action that a formal tender document would be repaired and put out to tender.”

On Monday planning committee members authorised direct action to remove the structure. But SBC then granted Mr Lees an extra, undisclosed amount of time to bring the development in line with the planning consent.

Alan Gueldner, SBC’s Principal Enforcement Officer, confirmed: “Following the service of an enforcement notice which came into force on April 7, 2011, a report was presented to the Planning and Building Standards Committee on June 13, 2011, seeking authority to proceed with direct action to comply with the terms of the notice, should this prove necessary. The report was approved unanimously by members.”

The direct action could therefore see the council demolish the half-finished flats, clear the site and send the bill, estimated to be in the region of £30,000, to Mr Lees.

However, despite the enforcement notice, issued in April, which ordered the developer to remove the unauthorised structure from the site in its entirety, and the Direct Action approval which now allows the council to remove the building, Mr Gueldner continued: “In discussions with Council officers, the developer has intimated that he intends to proceed with his planning consent and complete the development in accordance with the approved plans.

“The Council will allow a short period of time to elapse to allow the developer the opportunity to purify the remaining suspensive conditions and demonstrate his intention to implement the approved scheme. If the conditions are purified and the scheme is implemented direct action will not be required.”

Mr Gueldner added that if Mr Lees does not meet his obligations, the Council “will progress the direct action to ensure compliance with the notice.”

When asked on Tuesday the exact period of further time the developer has been allowed to make the changes, SBC said they could not say.

Burnmouth Community Councillor Joan Wilson, who lives next door to the controversial development, said that villagers had been left dismayed by the latest twist in this lengthy saga.

She said: “Initially I was elated when I heard that direct action had been approved on Monday - but it turned out not to be quite as simple as that, and they’ve given him more time again. Now I feel totally let down.

“They gave him three months pre notice to have it sorted by June 7 and some men eventually came round with chainsaws only about three days before that.

“We’ve had three and a half years of this,” she added.

But Ms Wilson insisted that the residents would not give up their fight against the building, which they believe is “totally inappropriate” in the village.

Ms Wilson said: “It’s difficult to know where to turn next, but we are not dead in the water yet.

“There are other avenues to be explored, I suspect at a higher level.”