Council loses court case over £1m Galashiels land deal

Burgh Yard in Galashiels.
Burgh Yard in Galashiels.

Scottish Borders Council has lost a legal dispute over plans to sell off land in Galashiels.

Stirling-based property developers Ramoyle Developments entered into an agreement with the council to buy land at the Burgh Yard for £1m to launch a regeneration project by building a hotel, restaurant and houses.

A condition of the sale, in March 2017, was that the developer had to submit a planning application to the authority by Wednesday, November 22, of that year.

Ramyole Developments did manage to submit an application on time but failed to include a cheque for the planning fees required.

The council contended that that oversight meant the deadline had been missed, entitling it to rip up the contract.

However, on Tuesday, after the legal battle reached the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Lord Ericht, Andrew Stewart, said the case hinged on whether the application was considered to have been submitted even if the fee required had not been paid.

In his ruling, he states: “In my opinion, the successful submission of an application under the system used by the planning authority for online submission satisfies the requirement to submit an application.

“This is in accordance with the natural and ordinary meaning of the word submit.

“In addition, in my opinion, it makes commercial common sense in this digital age for the pursuer to use the planning authority’s online submission system and comply with the provisions of that system.

“That system provided that an application is successfully submitted prior to payment of the fee by cheque.

“Accordingly, I find that the successful submission of the planning application through the online planning portal on November 20, 2017 constituted submission, notwithstanding that the fee had not been received at that time.

“The consequence of this is that the defenders were not entitled to rescind.”

Reacting to the ruling, a council spokesperson said: “We are considering the verdict and our options.”