A controversial housing development in Peebles has been given the go-ahead despite vociferous opposition from neighbours of the site.
West Lothian-based Persimmon Homes East Scotland is set to build a 71-home housing development next to the South Parks industrial estate after being given the thumbs-up by Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee today, March 4.
The estate will be made up of a mixture of detached, semi-detached and terraced houses offering two to five bedrooms, including 18 affordable homes.
Those plans came in for criticism from residents, triggering objections from 112 different households and the town’s community council.
Concerns were voiced about the capacity of the site, increased pressure on local amenities and congestion in nearby Caledonian Road.
Appearing before the committee on behalf of local objectors and fellow Tweeddale East councillors Shona Haslam and Stuart Bell, Robin Tatler said: “While the local development plan sets out that the site’s indicative capacity should be for 50 houses, this application drives a coach and horses through that by proposing 71 houses.
“Town and country planning laws require an applicant to justify why they wish to exceed the indicative capacity. This application has not done so, and to grant such an application would create a precedent that would be difficult to challenge in the future.
“At best, the design and layout of the development could be said to be compact. At worst, it is crowded and soulless and certainly not matching the scenic nature of the site.
“Then there is the objection on the grounds of the effect that these 71 houses will have on the single vehicular access route, Caledonian Road.
“This road has a number of features which could cause any increase in traffic on it to potentially increase the danger of accidents for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
“I would ask that the development be rejected. I would also suggest that before considering any future development that uses Caledonian Road as its main access that planning officers and developers carry out much more detailed research on the traffic impact and improvement options on the road.”
Persimmon’s head of land, Gordon Johnson, told councillors: “It is, of course, an argument that if we had submitted an application for a development of 50 houses, then we could have avoided many of the objections.
“However, for commercial reasons, this would have meant the development would be based solely on larger, four and five-bed homes, which would be more expensive and thus more exclusive.
“Eighteen of the houses will be built in partnership with Eildon Housing Association and will be social rent.
“By approving 71 units, an extra five affordable homes will be secured than if it was restricted to the initial capacity of 50.
“Affordable housing is a priority for Scottish Borders Council, with over 1,000 affordable houses required over the next five years in the region.
“There is capacity for the local road network to safely accommodate traffic associated with this development.
“Furthermore, there is also the fact that the difference in traffic variation between 71 houses and 50 houses would be negligible.”
Derek Inglis, the authority’s roads planning officer, accepted that most of the objections stemmed from concerns over Caledonian Road but said they could be mitigated by imposing conditions on the developer.
Those conditions includes increasing the existing pavement width by 20cm in certain places; creating two pedestrian crossings, one in Caledonian Road and one in South Parks; providing extra parking spaces on a current bit of green space alongside the road; and reintroducing vehicular access for one of the property with a drive currently blocked by a lamppost.
Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison said he was sympathetic towards the objectors, explaining: “I just wonder, when the developers sat down and looked at this, how often they said the word ‘squeezed’, as in how much more can we squeeze into there?
“How can you push up 50 by 40% and still be in the spirit of the local development plan? Why do we say it if it means nothing but a number and we can just ignore it?”
East Berwickshire councillor Jim Fullarton said: “As a farmer who has used that road, it is a wide road, and I think officers have done a great job of mitigating some of the concerns. For example, I think widening the pavement is great idea.
“I think Caledonian Road can handle it. It’s a wide road and virtually straight.
“I think it’s a bit harsh to say that the affordable housing is crammed in at one end. When you look at affordable housing, you have to look at terraced housing.
“We all want affordable housing, and the developers have worked hard to make sure this is attractive.
“The development itself is going to have a bit of a feature. It will be somewhere people want to live.
“I support the development and commend the officers for the work they have done to fit this into Peebles because Peebles needs more housing and to not just be against everything.”
Councillors voted to accept the recommendations of their officers and gave the development the go-ahead.