Westruther planning refusal is overturned after leader's intervention

A recommendation by Scottish Borders Council planning officers to refuse a bid to build a new adapted home for two teenage brothers with a progressive neurological condition has been overturned – after emotional interventions from the boys’ mother and the leader of the local authority.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 1:52 pm
Westruther

A recommendation by Scottish Borders Council planning officers to refuse a bid to build a new adapted home for two teenage brothers with a progressive neurological condition has been overturned – after emotional interventions from the boys mother and the leader of the local authority.

Officers this week recommended members of the council’s planning and building standards committee reject an application for the proposed house on land at 7 Houndslow Road, south east of Oaklands, just outside the village of Westruther, near Gordon and Duns.

Officers argued that the development did not meet the necessary planning criteria and would establish an “undesirable precedent” for the building of isolated stand-alone homes.

Sign up to our daily Berwickshire News Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It was also argued that the personal circumstances and needs of the two teenage boys, however urgent, should not be taken into account.

But after hearing powerful statements from council leader Mark Rowley, who represents mid-Berwickshire, and the boy’s mum, members concluded that approval should be given because “it was the right thing to do”.

Members were told the family’s existing home in Westruther is not suitable to be adapted for the needs of the boys, who both require wheelchairs.

A new build, on land gifted by a neighbour, would also enable the teenagers to stay close to friends locally.

Mr Rowley said: “The situation faced by the family is exceptionally challenging and utterly unique.

“The opportunity to build a home with specific and appropriate care facilities for the boys in their home village, where they have an existing support network, seems such a great opportunity that we all feel it needed to be examined in detail.

“I’m not saying officers have made the wrong recommendation. In dry planning terms it is correct. But I’m asking you today to support something that will enable the boys to get the specialist facilities they need. Most importantly you would make a massive difference to the lives of the boys and their family. I think that would be a great and just decision.”

The boys’ mother explained that the progressive genetic condition two of her three sons suffer from impacts their mobility, affecting their lungs and potentially their eyesight.

She said: “The boys basically are in their rooms and are not able to do very much and it is very difficult for them to move around the house.

“We don’t want to leave the village. The boys don’t have many friends and the friends they do have are in the village. They are home-schooled.

“It would be a huge mistake to leave the village. This property would be life-changing for the boys.”

Committee member Donald Moffat said: “We should approve this because it is the right thing to do. I am aware there are no local objections. In fact it is the opposite, there is local support for the family.”