Objections over Peebles housing site overruled

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A COUPLE objecting to the erection of 53 new houses on a controversial site in Peebles has warned that consent for the development could see the town’s proud motto of “Peebles For Pleasure” being more aptly amended to “Peebles, Overly Populated and Ruined”.

But the dissent of Elizabeth Howieson and Steven Newcombe, who live in the town’s Violet Bank, failed to sway the planning committee of Scottish Borders Council on Monday.

Instead, councillors unanimously agreed to grant landowner Mike Clay consent for 53 houses, including 13 affordable units in three terraced blocks, on a 2.6hectare field north of Violet Bank and close to the Rosetta Caravan Park.

The proposal represents a reduction of two houses on plans submitted, but left undetermined, a year ago.

Since then, Mr Clay has organised a three-day exhibition of his plans and consulted with the town’s community council and civic society.

In a submission to the committee, he described subsequent alterations to his proposal, including improving the site entrance, creating a village green, adding passing places and reducing the size of some of the houses.

The land was purchased for £2,000 by the Clay family, which at that time owned the caravan park, from the former Borders Regional Council in 1986.

There was no suggestion of housing on the site until seven years ago when SBC named the area around Violet Bank as its preferred option for a new school to replace Kingsland Primary. That project required a chunk of the field as a sports area and Mr Clay suggested a quid pro quo arrangement whereby he could build affordable houses on the remainder of the site.

In the event, SBC abandoned its school plans and opted instead to build a replacement Kingsland at Neidpath Grazings on the western outskirts of the town.

And when SBC planning officals drafted a new local plan, Mr Clay’s field was not zoned for housing.

But at the ensuing local plan public inquiry, Mr Clay’s agent claimed the site had already been established for development by SBC and there was a pressing need for affordable housing in the town.

The housing designation, with an indicative allocation of 40 homes, prompted local planning officer Craig Miller to recommend approval of Mr Clay’s amended application on Monday, subject to a number of conditions, including contributions towards education provision and subject to confirmation from Scottish Water that there adequate sewage capacity.

Tweeddale councillor Gavin Logan noted that the water quango had made no response to the application.

“I feel it strange that this statutory consultee did not make a response after commitments made at a recent meeting of SBC’s scrutiny committee when sewage infrastructure was being reviewed,” said Mr Logan.

“I am sure members would have found up-to-date information useful, instead of having to rely on consent being covered, particulary as number of houses had been increased from 40 in the local plan to 53.”

Ms Howieson and Mr Newcombe were among five neighbour objectors.

“We believe there is no demand for any new development on this or any other site in and around Peebles,” they stated.

“The town’s amenities are overstretched as it is.”