Appeal lodged against refusal of Whitmuir Hall chalets scheme

AN appeal has been lodged with the Scottish Government after plans for 28 holiday chalets at Whitmuir Hall, near Selkirk, were knocked back.

The proposals have been in the pipeline for more than 20 years, with outline planning approval for 25 chalets granted in 1990. However, this was never followed up by a full application.

Then, in December last year, an application to Scottish Borders Council (SBC) for planning permission in principle (PPP) was turned down by councillors against officer advice.

The applicant, Alan Williams, has now lodged an appeal against that refusal, stating that the council refused the application because it took into account local opposition which did not relate to material planning considerations.

The appeal also states that the local authority provided no precise reasons for refusal, ignored conditions drafted by the director of planning and failed to take into account previous planning history of the site.

In recommending the plan for approval last year, the planning officer’s report stated that the proposal complied with tourism development policies and, providing a high quality of layout, design, materials and landscaping were agreed at a later detailed application stage, then it would not have an adverse impact on the area. A total of 16 conditions were also attached to the report.

However, a majority of councillors agreed with 50 objectors and rejected the application on the grounds that there was no economic justification for the development, it would affect road safety, and would impact on the amenity and rural character of the area and on the amenity of local residents.

In the appeal paperwork, submitted on Mr Williams’ behalf by agent John Smith, it states: “Planning history and the previous outline approval granted gives tacit in principle support for the proposals at Whitmuir. This is an important material consideration which has not been fully taken into consideration by the SBC decision.

“There is a fundamental requirement for this tourism development and it fully complies with the National Tourism Strategy and the Local Tourism Strategy and Action Plan 2009-12.

“Accommodation provision within the Borders has been comprehensively assessed and evidence proves that there is a need to improve the level and quality of accommodation provided in this underrepresented sector.”

Mr Smith added: “The economic impact of further investment in tourism facilities is self evident and it is estimated that the development has the potential to create significant economic and employment benefits. A detailed business case and development appraisal has not been undertaken at this stage of the PPP process and viability is not a pertinent issue for the planning process.

“Nonetheless it is clear that the introduction of 28 lodges and associated improvements to the central facilities will increase tourism and business spend in the area.”

Mr Smith goes on to state that the development would have no impact on residential amenity and would not effect road safety, and that the conditions suggested by SBC would assist in “mitigating any landscape or visual impact”.

SBC have until March 14 to respond. A reporter appointed by the Scottish Government will then decide the appeal.