The Borders’ most senior planning councillor has defended his department after fierce criticism from MSP Paul Wheelhouse.
In a searing statement released by his office on Tuesday, Mr Wheelhouse accused the local authority of failing to protect the interests of residents in the Coldingham Bay area.
He claimed the council’s handling of the three-year controversial project for a modern passive solar house on the cliff face overlooking Coldingham Bay has been tantamount to a “dereliction of duty”.
After receiving constituent correspondence, in his capacity as south of Scotland MSP, about The Pavilion development, Mr Wheelhouse raised a number of construction access issues with SBC.
These related to heavy goods vehicles accessing the site and alleged damage and subsidence caused to neighbouring gardens as a result of the large number of HGV movements during work which involved significant quantities of earth being removed from above Coldingham Sands.
Mr Wheelhouse said he is encouraging local residents to submit an official complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
“I do not believe that Scottish Borders Council has done all it should have done to ensure the local communities’ fears have been addressed and to halt damaging activity on the site,” said the SNP parliamentarian, who is also the Scottish Government’s environment minister.
“While the current administration is not to blame for the original decision to allow this application, I am disappointed that the current Scottish Borders Council has failed to take demonstrative action and engage fully with residents in terms of resolving the landscape and environmental issues surrounding this application and, in my opinion, this constitutes a dereliction of duty on their part.”
But SBC executive member for planning, Councillor Ron Smith (Hawick, LD), said he was disappointed by Mr Wheelhouse’s statement.
“SBC’s Planning Department has monitored progress of this matter and has expressed concerns but it has been made clear that aspects of this matter are for legal consideration between the developer and those who feel affected by the development,” Mr Smith told us.
“I would have expected Mr Wheelhouse to have engaged more with SBC’s officers before releasing such a statement.”