Affordable housing plans given go-ahead

The plan includes 66 new homes on the site of the old Earlston High School.
The plan includes 66 new homes on the site of the old Earlston High School.

A five-year plan to have almost 1,200 affordable homes built in the region was approved by Scottish Borders Council on Tuesday.

Members of the authority’s executive committee gave their backing to a strategic housing investment plan intended to see 1,177 affordable homes constructed across the Borders by 2023.

More than £160m will be invested in affordable housing, and this week councillors heard that 803 of the proposed homes could be delivered within the next three years.

Cathy Fancy, group manager of the council’s housing strategy and services team, told the executive committee that she anticipated the majority of the new homes would be delivered by local social landlords and assured members that there should be no conerns about land availability.

She said: “I am confident that the land will be available. That is less of an issue than the challenges around infrastructure, resources and construction which I am more concerned about.

“Within the plan, we mention the work that Eildon Housing and Scottish Borders Housing Association are doing to attract builders to the Borders.”

She added: “There are still some areas of high, un-met demand, especially in the central Borders like Galashiels and Peebles, and there is still a need for extra in Hawick, but historically in the Borders, people don’t want to live outwith their small communities, so this creates demand all the time.”

Further questions followed over other developments and potential sites that failed to get a mention in the plan.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer said: “In the last couple of weeks, we have seen large-scale announcements made, particularly for housing for the elderly.

“We are talking about fairly sizeable developments that are going to make a difference. Are we going to see this acknowledged in the plan?

“I think that as we badge this as a strategic improvement plan we can’t ignore them. They add a lot and they are part of the solution.”

Fellow ward councillor George Turnbull added that he would like to see more redundant ground included in the plan.

He and Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison both went on to highlight potential gap sites, including Hawick’s former Turnbull Dyers site and Galashiels’ Roxburgh Street, they would like to see considered for future housing developments.

The plan is underpinned by funding of almost £44m from the Scottish Government and £4.6m from charitable bonds, borrowing and grants.

Over the next three years, just over 800 affordable homes are earmarked for constructions at locations including Galashiels and Newtown.

Comparing the 1,177 new homes planned by 2022, to the 814 delivered by the council in the last 10 years, council leader Shona Haslam added: “This makes me very happy.

“It’s fantastic and a real story of success.”

Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, the authority’s executive member for business and economic development, said: “This is an ambitious plan and is based on a number of assumptions, but it would go a long way to meeting the housing needs of local people.