Decision delayed on new houses planned in Duns

Ground at Wellnage in Duns is due to be built on.
Ground at Wellnage in Duns is due to be built on.

A decision on plans to build four new houses next to Wellnage House in Duns has been put on hold.

Members of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee were presented with updated proposals for the Station Road development at their meeting on Monday but opted to hold a site visit before coming to a decision.

Concerns were voiced over the risk of flooding, access to the site and the modern design of the development in a 19th century setting.

Senior planning officer Ian Aikman recommended approval of the application, but the authority’s executive member for planning and environment, Hawick and Hermitage councillor Ron Smith, expressed concern about the dampness of the site.

Mr Aikman responded: “The land slopes down towards Station Road, and the lower area of the site has previously been subject to a high water table and surface water, but removing the original two plots there allows opportunity for options on drainage to deal with that and to try to avoid water affecting properties, as well as also preventing it coming out onto the public road.

“There are options which can be looked at, and there is a condition that those details have to be sorted out before anything can happen on the site.”

The original application for the houses in the grounds of the category B-listed Wellnage House was submitted to the council in August last year.

Those plans included two plots later removed to reduce the impact of the development on the overall look of the setting.

The initial plans sparked no objections from the council’s flood risk team, but Mid-Berwickshire councillor Donald Moffat said: “The officer said there was a lot of surface water.

“I would say that’s an understatement because I was actually past the site on Saturday and had a look in on the way past, and where there’s been diggers working, there’s been trenches which have water in them, and since then, there has been a lot more rain.

“In Duns, the council has spent money on trying to drain the public park, and the main drain from the park comes down and goes into this site, then goes away from it.

“Up in the corner of the entrance to the public park, there is a bowling club, and there’s an area around there that’s just boggy.

“For me, until the drainage is sorted, I don’t think we can have any sort of development on this site.

“The fact of the matter is that the public park still isn’t working as it should be, and there’s still more work needed to sort that out, so I’m not comfortable with the fact that we are looking at having housing on this site.”

He added: “The other thing is that I don’t think the design of these houses actually fits in with the type of setting we are talking about.

“Some of the other houses that have been built in this vicinity are bungalows or one or one-and-a-half-storey houses.

“There’s certainly none that are as large as the ones we are seeing here.”

East Berwickshire councillor Joan Campbell echoed Mr Moffat’s concerns about flooding.

She said: “Some time before Christmas, there was flooding down that road, and it was unwalkable, so there is certainly flooding that happens there. There have been times when there’s been a lot of water.

“The other issue is the road entrance. I find driving up and down that road trying to get access to places a struggle, and while it is not the busiest of roads, it is still busy, and getting in and out of some of the entrances is quite difficult.”

Councillors were also concerned about visibility at the site access as a result of the bend in Station Road and a wall to be erected at the mouth of the junction.

The council’s principal roads planning officer, Derek Inglis, told members: “Some of the objections have concerns about whether you could see over the wall and visibility at the junction.

“The junction has been graded, and it is reasonably flat. The stipulation of the wall would be no higher than 900mm in height, so visibility can certainly be achieved.”

The plans include four houses each of a unique design featuring white rendered walls and timber cladding.

There have been five objections from neighbours on grounds including overdevelopment, poor design and impact on the setting of Wellnage House.

However, Selkirkshire councillor Michelle Ballantyne said: “It’s really difficult with these old houses with huge gardens because increasingly people don’t want these big patches of land, and while it would be nice if they kept it all original parkland, I guess there’s an element of realism that we face these days.

“I do not particularly favour trying to replicate what’s already there because this listed building has architectural importance.

“It is considered to be a good example of its era, so trying to then do a mock version around it I think just devalues the actual listed building.

“I actually do understand now why Historic Scotland and our general policies around this do say to do something contemporary against it and don’t try to replicate it.

“I do actually support the contrast, and I think it’s unapologetically modern in its approach, and that actually allows us to appreciate its setting.”

Mr Smith said: “I am relieved to see the removal of plots one and two, and I might query whether plot three should have been removed as well.

“I am very willing to take on board Councillor Moffat’s comments about the bowling area and the park area in that surely that issue should have been put right already.”

The development has been put forward by Ferguson Planning on behalf of Selkirk-based C&V Developments.

A spokesman for the agent said: “Great effort and time has been taken to listen to consultations received and can be seen, for example, in the removal of plots one and two from the front of the Wellnage.

“We respect that councillors have the right to call for site visits to provide comfort on detailed development matters, and we look forward to the final determination at the next planning committee.”

A date for a site visit is yet to be fixed.