MEMBERS of Scottish Borders Council’s Planning committee poured cold water on plans to build 60 new homes in Duns at a meeting on Monday.
Oliver Chapman Architects and Berwickshire Housing Association (BHA) submitted an application for the large scale development on land south of Earlsmeadow, with a view to including at least 15 affordable homes.
But despite the fact that the site, close to the town centre, currently serves as little more than a route for occasional dog walkers, and neither Duns Community Council or Scottish Natural Heritage had any objections, planning committee members rejected the proposals by a vote of 5-3.
This followed a recommendation from the Head of Planning and Regulatory Services to oppose the scheme on the grounds that it was contrary to a number of policies contained within the Scottish Borders Local Plan 2011 in that the proposed site is situated outwith the development boundary for Duns and the need for housing there had not been adequately demonstrated or justified on an exceptional basis.
Planning officials considered the application to be premature in advance of longer term expansion plans and it also fell foul of the Local Plan due to the fact that insufficient information had been provided to satisfy planners that the road safety impact, flood risk and water resource management had been fully addressed.
This was an opinion shared by statutory consultee, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), who objected to the plans due to insufficient information in relation to flood risk and water management.
As trustees of BHA, Berwickshire Councillors Trevor Jones and Jim Fullarton both had to declare an interest so weren’t present for discussions but Mid-Berwickshire Councillor Donald Moffat was and said he was unhappy with the outcome, having seen his motion to defer defeated.
He told The Berwickshire News: “The main thing is the fact that the rugby field next door to Earlsmeadow has been earmarked for housing and I think it would make sense to develop both sites at the same time. There is a major problem with drainage in that area and I think it would be more expensive to sort out both sites separately.
“I didn’t agree with the view that there isn’t a need for more housing in Duns; for the past year or so a number of people have got in touch with me who have had problems getting an affordable family home in Berwickshire. Berwickshire Housing should be supported in their efforts to make more available.”
Reacting to the council’s decision, Mid-Berwickshire Councillor Frances Renton said while she could see planning official’s reasons for objecting, she agreed there was definitely a need for more housing in Duns.
“As a local councillor I am disappointed that the development is not going to go ahead but at the same time I can see why. A few things about the site stood out on the planning officer’s report that I would agree with.
“However I disagree with the part about there not being sufficient need for more housing in Duns. I think there is most definitely a need for new homes in Duns, just not at the proposed site and I’d be happy to work with Berwickshire Housing Association to find a more suitable place.
“More affordable housing is particularly important for Duns as there just isn’t enough of it in the town.”
BHA’s chief executive, Helen Forsyth said whilst upset at SBC’s decision, the housing provider already had a number of other sites in mind for Duns.
She said: “Obviously we are disappointed at the rejection of our plans for Earlsmeadow. We accept that the planners feel there is a need for farming land but we are concerned that they also felt that we didn’t make the case strongly enough for new housing in Duns. However, we do own other plots of land in Duns and will try to make the case for housing need as and when opportunities arise.”