Plans to build a £4.9m affordable housing development in Galashiels have been given the green light by Scottish Government ministers.
The 34-flat project by Selkirk-based Eildon Housing Association had been given planning consent by Scottish Borders Council early in 2018, but that was then put on hold last summer following objections from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency due to fears over potential flooding, given its close proximity to the Gala Water.
A flood map drawn up by the agency assesses the site, next to the New Look store at Gala Water Retail Park, as being at medium or low risk of flooding.
The application was called in for further consideration by the Scottish Government’s planning and environmental appeals division.
Scottish ministers appointed reporter Robert Maslin to look into the situation and he visited the site on two occasions, in July and August.
He noted that the site had a 3.33% annual probability risk of flooding. He also noted that the areas at risk would be the proposed cycle storage area and most of the car park, while the proposed residential accommodation would not be at significant risk.
In his report, Mr Maslin wrote: “Peak flow events in the annual probability range from 3.33% to 0.5% would, at the more frequent end of the scale, involve slight ingress of water on to the lowest part of the car park ... I find that this is a significant flood risk that would have the potential to damage cars within the car park.
“On the other hand, I see no reason why the building containing the residential accommodation could not be designed and constructed so as to be undamaged by any predicted flood event.”
Mr Maslin concluded that planning permission should be granted, subject to 16 conditions, and on January 7, the ministers concurred.
This week, Eildon Housing Association chief executive Nile Istephan welcomed the planning approval for this site as well as for the 64-home project at Sergeants Park in Newtown St Boswells.
He said: “Planning approval means we can now press ahead with providing much-needed affordable homes for people living and working in the surrounding communities.”
He said that when the first phase at Sergeants Park – consisting of 53 homes – was built, the association received 3,300 bids, underlining the scale of demand for affordable housing in the Borders.
Of those first 53 homes, 85% went to local people across the Borders, with four homes built to accommodate specific care needs – around 10% of Eildon’s homes are built to enable wheelchair access.
Mr Istephan anticipates a similar level of demand for the proposed 63 homes in phase two of the development.
He said: “Housing need is a major issue across towns and villages in the Borders. People at all stages in life – from young people and families, to older people with care requirements – they’re all looking for affordable housing.
“The Borders needs modern, high-quality affordable housing and the Sergeants Park development illustrates how Eildon is working closely with local communities, Borders Council – as part of their current Strategic Housing Investment Plan – and the Scottish Government to address this most fundamental of social and economic priorities.”
Andy Mallice, managing director of Hart Builders, Eildon Housing’s partner on the developments, said: “We look forward to delivering the next phase of the Sergeants Park affordable housing development on behalf of Eildon Housing Association.
“These high-quality homes will be built to Silver Standard energy efficiency levels, providing residents with warmer homes that have fewer carbon emissions and are cheaper to run.
“Throughout this build, we will provide a wide range of benefits for the local community – including employment opportunities, schools’ initiatives and site-based work experience.”