Builder absolved of £70,000 road upgrade demand

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ScottishBorders Council is not entitled to demand £70,000 from a well-known housebuilder for improvements to the region’s road network.

That is the verdict of Scottish Government reporter Michael Mahony after considering an appeal by the firm – BDW Trading Ltd. Formerly known as Barratt Homes, the company was granted planning permission in pre-recession 2007 to build 70 luxury houses at Vinery Park in Clovenfords.

In a quid pro quo agreement with the local authority, the firm was required to make phased developer contributions worth over £700,000 to cover the cost of the extra public services generated by the scheme and its new residents.

That sum included payments for education, the railway, a playpark, the provision of affordable housing elsewhere and £70,000 for improvements to the road network. Last year, the firm tried to renegotiate the terms of the agreement with the council and, when that was unsuccessful, it appealed to the Scottish Government.

In October, the appeal was dismissed after an inquiry, although the reporter noted with regard to the roads element that there was “a lack of detailed evidence … on whether the guideline contribution of £1,000 per dwelling [£70,000 in total] is reasonable or necessary”.

The firm duly lodged a separate appeal to have the £70,000 deleted from the agreement and, on Friday, Mr Mahony found in its favour.

He said that further analysis was required of the council’s “traffic-modelling exercise” – an untimed schedule of road and bridge improvements to service new housing in the Borders.

He noted the position of the company, which believed that travel by residents of Vinery Park would have little impact on many of the locations listed in that schedule, including the £10million replacement of Lowood Bridge on the eastern side of Galashiels.

“It appears the council’s traffic-modelling exercise is incomplete and inconclusive with respect to justification of the contribution required of the Vinery Park development,” said Mr Mahony.

“The appellants [BDW Trading Ltd] are entitled to a definitive decision now…thus the planning obligation should be modified to remove the £70,000.”

A council spokesperson told The Southern: “We note the decision of the reporter.

“To date, the firm has paid £387,411 in developer contributions towards the Borders Railway, Clovenfords Primary School, affordable housing and play facilities.

“On completion of the 50th unit on the site, the developer will be required to settle a balance of £249,458.”