Council sends a festive letter to Holyrood backing local projects

A CHRISTMAS wishlist was been sent to Holyrood rather than the North Pole.

Scottish Borders Council have submitted its views on the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework for 2014, which will detail the long-term infrastructure aims of Scotland’s towns, cities and countryside.

And SBC’s response includes five ambitious projects it believes should be pushed forward for the benefit of Scotland and the Borders.

While the schemes are unlikely to be seen in the short term, the framework strategy is designed to shape Government priorities over the next 20 to 30 years.

Executive member for planning, councillor Ron Smith, said: “It is important we sent our letter to Santa now. We are trying to emphasis the strength of support for developing these projects to improve life in the Borders.”

The local authority proposals include a world class digital network being introduced to strengthen economic growth, reduce unemployment and cut the impact of climate change.

Councillor Smith described connectivity as a “prime need” in the region and said SBC had put down a marker by aiming for the reinstatement of the Waverley rail line from Edinburgh to Carlisle in its reply to the Scottish Government.

Scotland’s National Trail - a 470 mile walking route from Cape Wrath in Sutherland to Kirk Yetholm - was introduced in October and Mr Smith says it should be used to promote the area.

And the Hawick councillor added that improvements to the Edinburgh Bypass were being sought to make the Borders a more reachable destination for visitors.

He said: “We want to move or remove this (Edinburgh Bypass) impediment to those travelling from the Borders to Edinburgh.

“I am sick of hearing that the Borders is a place to pass through. We need to make it a destination people come to.”

The final SBC response - to dual the A1 - was backed by Berwickshire councillor Jim Fullarton, the former executive member for roads and infrastructure.

He added: “I think this may be the most realisable of the proposals. Already the UK Government has promised to dual the road to Newcastle.

“All the economic development is now passing through the eastern side of Scotland, rather than the west.

“In terms of the Edinburgh Bypass, it is fine coming from the eastern side of the Borders via the A1 but if you are travelling from the A68, it is not fit for purpose.”

Councillors backed SBC’s consultation response and also supported its comments on the latest Scottish Planning Policy review, which is due to be published in 12 month’s time.

Among the main concerns was the cumulative impact of wind farms, with SBC’s planners calling for the national policy to be redefined to consider the number of turbines already in the Borders and the growing scale of the machines, with the majority now being in excess of 120 metres.

SNP councillor Stuart Bell, who was previously part of a successful campaign to stop a wind development being build at Broadmeadows in the Yarrow Valley before his election, supported the statement.

He said: “It was very clear that the reporter who rejected the Broadmeadows application based his decision on the Scottish Planning Policy. By tightening up the SPP we get more leverage on the decisions the reporter makes.”

He added: “I am a nationalist but I have serious problems with the cumulative impact and scale. If you have a 30m turbine, the square area it impacts goes up by four. That means a 120m turbine is 16 times the impact.”

Berwickshire councillor Michael Cook said the issue of wind farms had polarised his home county like never before.

He added: “I hope this paper will make the Scottish Government listen to the reasonable views in this area.

“We are all feeling anxious about this issue.”