‘Flexibility needed’ on land use rules that sparked supermarket rejection

A more flexible approach could be taken towards the use of land that has been designated as being solely for industrial occupation, councillors and officers of Scottish Borders Council (SBC) have agreed.

That issue has been much in the news, with a campaign to convince planners to reverse their refusal of a supermarket plan for a Jedburgh site zoned for employment (industrial) use only.

The topic came up at last week’s meeting of the full SBC, when members discussed the main issues report (MIR) and the environmental report, which is the first stage in the review of the recently adopted local plan.

The MIR is meant to encourage discussion of new planning issues. It asks questions to stimulate public response on issues ranging from employment land sites, housing development and digital connectivity to town centres, green spaces and even climate change.

During preparation of the MIR there has been pre-consultation with a range of organisations including the statutory key agencies and community councils.

At last week’s session of SBC, the issue of a more flexible approach to the zoning of land being looked at in the MIR was flagged up by Sandy Scott, Conservative councillor for Jedburgh and District.

In response, the council’s head of planning, Brian Frater, agreed flexibility was important.

“Perhaps we need to discriminate more between key employment sites and other areas where a greater mix of uses might be acceptable,” he said.

SBC depute leader Michael Cook, the council’s executive member for corporate improvement, pointed out that at the current uptake rate of employment land by businesses, there was enough to last 147 years.

“It is entirely right that we go to the Borders public and stakeholders and see what they think and then make a decision at a future date.”

Executive member for planning and environment, Carolyn Riddell-Carre, told TheSouthern that it was important that the public took the opportunity to have their say on such matters in the consultation over the MIR.

“What we’re trying to flag up is a basis for consultation. I appreciate this seems to have come hot on the heels of the last local plan, but it is an almost continuous rolling process,” she explained.

“This is the democratic stage where people can have an input. Once we are at the stage of judging a planning application, we are acting in a quasi-judicial role. We are acting as judges then and that is not democratic.

“So people need to make their views heard now.”