A Galashiels councillor has called for a reporter’s decision on the controversial Netherbarns site opposite Abbotsford to be respected “once and for all”.
Councillor Sandy Aitchison was backed by 19 other councillors at a meeting last week for an amendment to be made to the council’s response to representations on the site’s inclusion in the latest local development plan.
A Government-appointed planning reporter will review representations from objectors and the council’s responses before making a final call on over 330 proposed development sites in the draft plan.
The council was told last Thursday that minor changes could be made, but that any significant alterations would require a further round of extensive consultation, unless these were left to the reporter to make a decision on whether they should be made or not.
Mr Aitchison called for the wording in the council’s Netherbarns response to include reference to the two previous reporter decisions regarding the site, and: “In that respect, the council would accept the site could be deleted from the plan, and would accept the reporter’s decision on this matter.”
Representations both supporting and objecting to the inclusion of the site were submitted to the council during the consultation period.
Supporting Mr Aitchison, Councillor Michael Cook called it a subtle change.
He added: “What it says is that as Borderers we are struggling with this and it says to the reporter that as an independent adjudicator you need to look at this and the shards of opinions on this.”
Referring to the inclusion of the site in the draft local development plan, with a suggestion for 45 homes, Mr Aitchison said: “We are talking about a field opposite Sir Walter Scott’s living room window, and I get quite upset that he would not be very impressed with the idea of what we are looking at here.”
Mr Aitchison added that the argument that tree planting would protect the views of the site from Abbotsford did not hold water with him.
“We should not be asking trees to cover any indiscretions we make,” he said.
Mr Aitchison concluded: “I think we should all look at the reporter’s decision and accept it once and for all.”
But, Conservative group leader Michelle Ballantyne said: “What this says is that as a council we cannot agree to get this kicked out so ‘hey can you do it’ – and that is not subtle.”
She added: “I think officers have got it right because I wouldn’t think there would be damage to Abbotsford if this site is developed.”
Councillor Jim Fullarton also voiced his opposition, stating: “It is vital to protect the landscape character of the whole of the Borders and not get hung up on one matter.”
Lib Dem councillor Alec Nicol said the motion was clumsy, and called for the representations to be submitted to the reporter as they stood.
Councillor Aitchison’s motion to amend the council’s representation to the reporter was agreed by 20 votes to 10.
The site at Netherbarns is owned by Kelso firm M. & J. Ballantyne, who failed in 2007 to get planning approval for 79 homes.