In defence of planning rules

Sorry to disappoint Norman Pender (letter last week) but he has claimed that the council refuses planning permission for 1,248 houses each year.

In his letter to the Hawick News of May 4, he stated that the refusal of his application to build a new house in the garden of his existing house was “just one example of dozens of similar ‘marginal applications’” being turned down all over the Borders every week. Dozens is at least 24, 52 weeks in a year, 52 x 24 = 1,248 houses being turned down each year, according to Mr Pender. As I pointed out in my letter to The Southern last week, this claim is patent nonsense.

So is his claim that planning officers may not take to committee for refusal some applications if they think they are outwith policy. Every single planning application is recommended for either approval or refusal.

If it goes to the planning committee and is refused, the applicant may appeal to the Scottish Government; if its refused by an officer under delegated powers the appeal is to the review body of the planning committee.

Mr Pender’s appeal to the review body was turned down and he blamed councillors who were Tories and/or from Berwickshire. Former councillor Trevor Jones, described by Norman Pender as my “partner in crime” on the planning committee, ticks both boxes so I suppose that’s why he gets it in the neck. He was a very good vice-chairman of the committee.

Under planning law, each application is judged on its merits against policy. Mr Pender’s plan to help the building trade is to relax policy and so allow 52 to 104 “marginal applications” – whatever those are – each year. I do not think many people would regard that as fair.

Do you say to neighbours or objectors: “Pity about the overlooking/loss of daylight/flood risk/dangerous access but hey! it will help the building trade”.

What if there are not 52 to 104 “marginal applications” each year? Do you relax policy even more? The building trade will only pick up when the global financial crisis ends and as we watch the Greek tragedy, unfold no-one can say when that will be

Jock Houston

Beechhurst, Hawick