Ambulance station site causes concern

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TWO more Scottish Borders Council officers have raised concerns over plans for the new ambulance station at Borders General Hospital, writes Kenny Paterson.

A report by principal roads planning officer Derek Inglis has highlighted a series of issues on the proposed location at land north west of the hospital, which if approved will replace the current Galashiels depot.

And planning official Carlos Clarke has called for the new station application to be refused in a report submitted to SBC’s planning committee.

Mr Inglis instead suggested siting the station at a field west of the BGH beside Huntlyburn House – which SBC landscape architect Jim Knight has already tabled as an alternative. He wrote: “...there are several other roads concerns and constraints external to the site that need to be taken into consideration when assessing this proposal. “Regrettably, these important factors do not seem to have been picked up during the appraisal of this site.”

Mr Clarke added: “The benefits of the proposed development do not outweigh the significant adverse landscape impacts that would result and it has not been demonstrated that alternatives to the proposed site are not available or that the landscape impacts can be satisfactorily mitigated.”

The proposed location for the new facility is the closest of six options to the A6091 Melrose bypass, as the Scottish Ambulance Service attempts to improve its response times for attending life-threatening call-outs in rural locations.

But Mr Inglis argues that crews attending an emergency could be slowed down by the frequent traffic queues which form at the hospital and bypass junctions.

The roads expert instead believes the site alongside Huntlyburn House – previously ruled out by SAS for its unsuitable access – has fewer roads issues to overcome.

And despite being further away from the A6091, he thinks it would provide similar response times, with only one junction rather than two to negotiate.

Mr Inglis added: “Forward visibility is good, the road is lightly trafficked and the road is generally flat.

“Apart from a requirement for some minor widening on the public road and an alteration to the priority at the junction immediately to the north of the Careshare (nearby nursery) car park, it has direct and unimpeded access to the trunk road.

“Overall, I am of a view that there may be little to choose between the two sites in terms of response times.”

TheSouthern reported last month that Mr Knight called for the refusal of the application on its present location due to concerns about the effect on the nearby Eildon Hills. However, SAS claimed it was “absolutely critical” that its plans at the BGH go ahead. And NHS Borders says a delay would push back the building of its new health centre in Galashiels, which is set to be expanded onto the current ambulance station site in 2013/14.

An SAS spokesman told TheSouthern that all site options for the new ambulance station had been considered and the one selected was the preferred choice.

SBC’s planning committee will consider the application at Monday’s meeting.