Councillors found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place this week when having to decide on expanding the village of Gavinton by over 50 per cent.
A previous decision by a Scottish Government Reporter at a public inquiry in the Scottish Borders Local Plan, that a piece of land at the western end of Gavinton could be zoned for up to 45 houses, meant that the prinicple of building on the land had been established.
So when an application came before Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee this week for 54 houses on the site councillors had to decide whether the extra nine houses meant that they should refuse the application.
After a discussion of around 90 minutes councillors finally approved the scheme, but committee chairman, Councillor Ron Smith told The Berwickshire: “There was a great deal of discomfort among the committe. It wasn’t because SBC thought it was a wonderful expansion of Gavinton.
“The council had originally not supported allocation of this field for housing but was over-ruled by the Reporter at
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the Local Plan inquiry.
“That left us in the position of, despite local opposition, the principle having been established that there would be 45 houses and we would have to prove that the additional nine houses caused specific problems.
“We would also have undermined that suggestion that nine houses would case problems because members of the committee by then had said it was a well thought-out scheme itself.
“The problems we were left with were the impact on the village of Gavinton, plus various roads concerns at the A junction.
“The number of houses was undermined by the Reporter’s previous decision and in terms of roads, our roads planning officer said he would support the project becasue works could be done to render that junction safer.
“The planning committee accepted they had little option but to support it but unanimously were concerned about the impact of a development of this size on the village of Gavinton.”
Among the conditions laid down by the planning committee was that the new housing scheme be developed in four phases and that one phase had to be completely finished and signed off before the next could start to avoid villagers fears that there would be piecemeal development that went on for years. Building would start on the northern most section first, moving progressively south, phase by phase.
Gavinton resident John Majoribanks attended the meeting where the decision was made and said afterwards: “By the end of the meeting it was obvious that every councillor in the room would have preferred to refuse the application but unless they could produce an objection based on policy the applicant would probably appeal and their decision overturned.
“The best thing for the community is that we are where we are and have to make sure that we come out of this proposal as satisfactorily as possible for the Gavinton community. Those who objected to it should work constructively with planning officials.”