COUNCIL planners moved last week to ensure new affordable houses built around the village of Ettrick meet the highest possible standards.
But their efforts were branded “pointless” by a community council member.
In March, a consultation was launched over a draft planning brief for development of three small areas of farmland at Hopehouse, earmarked for five houses each in Scottish Borders Council’s latest local plan.
During the consultation, Ettrick and Yarrow Community Council raised issues, including the lack of a regular bus service and jobs in the valley.
Councillors suggested that if affordable housing goes ahead, workshops should be built, along with the installation of fast broadband connection and improved mobile phone reception to allow the new householders to work in Ettrick.
“We do not want this to become a commuter settlement and we need to encourage local enterprise and home industries,” their submission said.
Last Monday, SBC’s planning committee approved the brief as a guide for potential developers. But members conceded the need for improved communication links and gave an assurance any future applications would be considered on their individual merits.
“We can encourage consideration of work accommodation, but as the sites are allocated for housing, we are unable to require such a provision,” said committee chairman Jock Houston.
Two of the plots lie to the north of the Ettrick settlement on either side of the B709. The third is to the south-west, south of the road.
Community council vice-chairman Gordon Harrison claimed the planning brief was a waste of time and money.
“I cannot imagine I’m alone in thinking SBC has lost touch with reality over adding two plots to a third plot [for five houses] which was given planning consents many years ago and is still undeveloped,” said Mr Harrison.
“SBC appears to have wasted a considerable number of man-hours and many of our pounds in chasing the dream of affordable housing in a totally unsuitable location. There will be no local jobs for the residents and no daily bus, so a round car journey of 32 miles to Selkirk and Hawick seems likely if it can be afforded.
“There is no prospect of getting an adequate broadband or mobile phone signal in such a remote location in the foreseeable future, so working from home will be very difficult.
“To ask a developer to provide workshops – and small businesses are vital to sustain any new households – will surely mean the cost is passed on to the new houses so they will no longer be affordable.
“This [planning brief] is a pointless exercise which is not in the public interest. In these times of constraint I would have thought our money could have been much better spent.”