Loch saved from lodges

Whitmuir Hall self-catering and country club near Selkirk
Whitmuir Hall self-catering and country club near Selkirk
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Almost 30 holiday lodges near Selkirk would have an ‘alien suburban appearance’, a planning reporter has said in the dismissal of an appeal.

Last week, Gerry Farrington upheld the council’s refusal of the ‘in principle’ application for 28 lodges at Whitmuir Hall, ruling that the ‘unacceptable harm’ to the amenity and character of the area was reason enough for it to be refused.

Mr Farrington added in his decision notice that the scheme’s failure to accord to sustainable transport policies also weighed against granting permission.

A proposal to create new lodges on the site, close to the Whitmuirhall Loch Site of Special Scientific Interest, has been in the pipeline for more than 20 years, with outline approval granted for 25 chalets in 1990.

This was never followed up with a detailed application, and then in December last year the latest proposal was turned down by councillors, going against the advice of planning officers.

The applicant, Alan Williams, then lodged the appeal.

Despite dismissing that appeal last week, Mr Farrington noted various benefits of the scheme to the local area.

These included the creation of jobs for local people, the likely implementation of an approved extension to the leisure and communal facilities at Whitmuir Hall, which are accessible to the community, and improvements to the road.

But, Mr Farrington added: “I agree that, however well designed and landscaped, due to the size and density of the units and the tightness of the clusters, the development would have an alien suburban appearance and character in this rural setting.

“The rural ambience would be further eroded by the heavy traffic and verge damage along the minor road.”

He concluded: “The proposal would cause unacceptable harm to the amenity and character of the scenic landscape surrounding Whitmuir Hall Loch, which is sensitive to change and contributes significantly to the attractiveness of the area for tourism and public recreation.”

The council took the unusual step of lodging an application for costs in the appeal, claiming the appellant ‘acted in an entirely unreasonable way’.

It was claimed agents working on behalf of Mr Williams submitted fresh information to the appeal despite stating this had not been done and also changed quotes taken from emails between council staff.

A decision on whether the expenses application has been successful is still outstanding.