Old school tied into affordable housing, despite objections

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LOCAL objections were swept aside this week when plans for 12 affordable houses on the site of the former Lauder Primary School in Crofts Road were unanimously approved this week, writes Andrew Keddie.

The future use of the school site has been a thorny issue in the town since owners Scottish Borders Council opened negotiations over its sale to the Eildon Housing Association.

Many people in Lauder felt the land at Crofts Road would have been a better location for a new health centre than the play park site which, as reported on page one, was endorsed by an overwhelming majority in last week’s NHS Borders referendum.

But the sale, for £250,000, went ahead and, on Monday, the planning committee of SBC agreed by eight votes to three to approve Eildon’s application to demolish the school and create four blocks of three-bedroomed affordable homes.

No fewer than 38 individuals, from 25 households, objected for a variety of reasons. The proposed development was, they claimed, out of character with the setting of a conservation area, was too crammed and dense, and would not address local housing needs because no one or two-bedroomed properties were included.

The main bone of contention, however, related to road safety and the arguments about the adequacy of the narrow one-way Crofts Road, as aired in the health centre debate, were emphasised.

Taken along with the traffic generated by the health centre, objectors believe it would result in another 40 vehicles regularly using the road, to the danger of pedestrians and school children.

But local planning officer Stuart Herkes recommended approval, considering that the brownfield nature of the site made it a sustainable location for affordable housing.

And roads official Derek Inglis said the site was “a fantastic town centre location”, adding that, given the site’s historic use as a school, there were no capacity or safety issues.

The design of the buildings concerned Coucillor Nicholas Watson (Leaderdale and Melrose).

“The uniform, boxed design of this development is just not good enough,” he said. “It needs a mixture of elevations while the nasty decorative cladding on the front and gable ends add no value to its setting in the town.”

Mr Watson’s motion to refuse the application to allow Eildon to submit revised designs was defeated by eight votes to three.