Borders cement firm boss hits out after relocation bid rejected

What Border Mix's proposed new site near Dolphinton would look like.
What Border Mix's proposed new site near Dolphinton would look like.

Councillors have been taken to task by a business boss after rejecting his bid to expand his concrete firm despite there being no alternative sites.

Alastair Brown, owner of Border Mix, applied to Scottish Borders Council planners for permission to expand his business by moving it from Heywood, near Dolphinton, to a more secluded site north west of the village alongside the A702.

That application was rejected by the council’s planning and building standards committee yesterday, March 5, despite it accepting there are no alternative sites available and receiving 20 letters in support of the plans, including one from West Linton Community Council.

Leaving the council chamber, Mr Brown turned to councillors and told them: “Can I just say something – what chance has any business got in our area if there’s no land?

“There’s no chances. There’s umpteen businesses looking for land, and there’s land there, and you won’t let us use it. What chance has anybody got?”

Prior to that, the 57-year-old had appeared before the committee to plead with it to allow the business to develop a greenfield site to the north of the Old Creamery, near Dolphinton.

He told councillors: “The next phase of our expansion requires a larger site, close to the existing one, to serve our established customer base.

“My deep personal commitment to this area, as man and boy, and as a responsible employer, means that I have a genuine interest in developing the proposed site, sympathetic to local values and alongside the needs of the business.

“There are no feasible alternative sites. Had there been any available within the development, we would have preferred this.

“An extensive review confirms this, and at a meeting, planning officials Ian Aikman and John Hayward accepted the fact that a greenfield site is the only option remaining.

“They had in principle supported a similar greenfield site closer to the Pentland Hills special landscape area and a larger number of residential neighbours.

“This site was not supported by Transport Scotland and is no longer available.”

Mr Brown also told councillors that he would plan to plant a substantial number of trees to shield the site from the road and to improve the biodiversity of what is currently an empty field.

However, in a submission to the committee, planning officers advised councillors to reject the application, saying that Mr Brown had not shown enough justification for the development.

In the report, planning officer Ranald Dods writes: “The proposed business premises for a mixed class-five and class-six business operation does not comply in principle with council planning policies, in that the applicant has not demonstrated any overriding economic or operational need for it to be located in this particular countryside location.

“The proposal relates to a site that lies outwith a development boundary defined in the local development plan, and no overriding reasons have been advanced to substantiate that it is a job-generating development in the countryside that has an economic justification under council policy, or that it is a development that would offer significant community benefits that would outweigh the need to protect the defined development boundary.

“Notwithstanding the potential to realise benefits both to the applicant’s businesses and wider local economy and indirectly to the amenity of residential properties around the applicant’s existing premises in Dolphinton, there are no other material considerations that would justify a departure from the provisions of the local development plan.”

Planning officers also highlighted that the application has triggered 13 objections, with the majority concerned about the loss of green space.

East Berwickshire councillor Jim Fullarton was one of two councillors backing the application. He told the committee: “I think there has been an incredible amount of talking between officers and the developers to try and find another site. A total of 49 sites have been looked at.

“The business is well established and has been for a long time in this area, and we’ve previously approved a car repair business in West Linton because of the difficulty of finding a site.

“Our policies are quite specific around agricultural land, but I think we can rely on this being a business that has been well established in West Linton and for many years.

“There will also be a benefit to the people who live near the other site when it moves to here.”

Fellow East Berwickshire councillor Helen Laing disagreed with her colleague, however, saying: “I have sympathy for the developer about this but this does not take away the fact that this site is not suitable for an industrial business.

“I think this is the wrong place for it. I get that the current site is no longer fit for purpose, but that doesn’t mean this site is suitable.”

Mr Fullarton’s motion to overturn the recommendation of the council’s planners and approve the application was seconded by Jedburgh councillor Scott Hamilton but was defeated by five votes to two.