Bell sounds warning to retrospective developers

A MEMBER of Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee has described retrospective applications from professional firms as unacceptable, writes Kenny Paterson.

Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell told last week’s committee meeting that he was “astounded” that members were forced to consider a bid by Cable and Wireless UK for a telecommunications mast that had already been placed on the SBC-owned old Eyemouth High School building.

Despite Mr Bell’s concerns, which were supported by planning chairman Ron Smith, the application was approved.

But the SNP councillor fears the tactic may pressure future meetings into backing already-developed plans.

Mr Bell told TheSouthern: “I was concerned to note that the application for a telecommunications mast on the old Eyemouth High School was being presented retrospectively to the SBC planning committee.

“While the need for this particular infrastructure improvement is clear, retrospective applications are a real problem.

“On the one hand, decision makers are under an obligation to consider a retrospective application in exactly the same way as any other application.

“But on the other hand, a retrospective application is difficult, because the work has already been done, or at any rate started. The developer has effectively prejudged that he will get planning permission, which could be seen to be pressuring the committee.”

Mr Bell, a former secretary of Clovenfords Community Council, said he understood why individual householders may fail to recognise they need permission and fail to apply. “But professional developers should and must know what is required,” he added. “For them to apply retrospectively is unacceptable.

“I was heartened that the chairman of the SBC planning committee (Councillor Smith) was very insistent that the officers concerned took note of the committee’s annoyance at this being a retrospective application, but also pleased that the application itself was unanimously approved.”

A spokeswoman for SBC said the local authority had to consider all planning bids on their own merits, whether already built or carried out in the correct manner.

She told us: “Retrospective applications occur from time to time. The council must then consider the application in the same way that it would if the works had not taken place.

“If the development is considered acceptable in planning terms, it should be granted planning permission and, if it is not, then permission should be refused.

“As such, the council cannot allow the retrospective nature of the application to influence the decision-making process and it would certainly not be appropriate for permission to be refused solely on these grounds.

“The council can, however, attach planning conditions to the permission in the normal way to seek amendments to the constructed development if that is considered necessary.”

However, in a warning to firms who carry out work without permission, the spokeswoman added: “Clearly, the risk associated with undertaking the works without permission will rest with the developer because, if permission is refused, the likely outcome would be that the development has to be removed and the site restored at their own cost.”