AMBITIOUS plans for 59 new homes in the spacious grounds of St Aidan’s in Gattonside have been given the go-ahead by Scottish Borders Council, writes Andrew Keddie.
On Monday, the planning committee granted consent to the Brothers of Charity and its development partner Image Estates Ltd to convert B-listed Gattonside House, a four-storey 19th-century villa, into 15 houses.
And in the wooded grounds around the former care home for people with learning disabilities, a further 44 houses will be built, along with a shop.
First submitted last year, the proposals were amended following a public meeting in the 350-population village last August and contemporary designs for houses north of Gattonside House were ditched.
Apart from the conversion of the big house, nine different house types are now proposed: a blend of detached, semi-detached and terraced-style properties in mews and courtyard groupings. None of the properties will exceed two storeys.
The charity still has a major presence on the site with the former walled-garden hosting supported living units for its clients.
However, there were still around 20 written representations from villagers who believed the housing project was an overdevelopment of a prime site between the village and the River Tweed and that too many trees, including the landmark copper beech next to the big house, would be sacrificed in the process.
Neither the villagers nor the developers favoured a road access from the east of the site to Bakers Road – the narrow track, part of the Melrose Walks, which leads from the main B6360 road towards the river, linking with the lane to the chain bridge to Melrose.
But, despite the fact two access points were proposed onto the main road to the north – with the present west lodge entrance on a bad bend blocked off – SBC’s road user manager Derek Inglis stipulated that vehicle access should be created onto Bakers Road.
Mr Inglis said that link was required for service and utility vehicles and would reduce the time and distance such vehicles would take without it.
The link was also needed to ensure the connectivity and integration of the new development with the rest of the village.
This turned out to be the main bone of contention on Monday, with Councillor Ron Smith siding with a letter on behalf of the 13 householders in Bakers Road who said they were “aghast” at the prospect of their lane being linked to the new development.
Mr Smith concurred. “The character of this lane would be damaged if vehicle access was created,” he stated.
On a division, the committee voted 9-3 for his motion to make the link between the St Aidan’s site and Bakers Road pedestrian only.
Councillor Gavin Logan’s amendment that the new houses should have roofs of real slate to preserve the character of the conservation village, instead of the imitation slate proposed, was defeated by a margin of seven votes to four.