March Street Mills development set for Scot Gov decision

The would-be developers of Peebles' March Street Mill have backed out of their application with Scottish Borders Council and will instead try their luck with the Scottish Government.

Tuesday, 27th November 2018, 3:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 27th November 2018, 3:34 pm
The March Street Mills site in Peebles, which the owner wants to turn into homes.

The owner of the disused mill, Moorbrook Textiles, wants to demolish most of the industrial buildings in order to build 69 new homes, but following heavy criticism at a council meeting has decided to try and get the application granted by the Scottish Government’s planning department.

The plans have been met with fury by local residents who want to see the site retained as a community and business complex.

The relocation of the March Street Mill allotments is also causing consternation amongst residents, as the current proposal would see the community gardens moved to a smaller site on the east of the property, and onto land which has been contaminated by industrial use over the past century.

Furthermore, objectors have taken umbrage with the fact that Moorbrook Textiles is applying to be exempt from paying developer contributions towards local education and providing affordable housing on the site, which the developers say would make the project economically unviable.

To date, the plans have received 47 objections from Peebles residents, and a petition against the redevelopment has gathered 1,300 signatures.

The number of objectors and the scale of the development meant that rather than planning officers making a decision on the planning application, the case was heard by councillors sitting on the council’s planning and building standards committee on Monday 5 November.

Councillors heard strong representations from local residents, Peebles Community Council, Peebles Community trust and the Tweeddale West councillor Heather Anderson.

They also heard representations from Moorbrook Textiles’ finance officer, Andrew Menzies.

The planning committee, chaired by Lauderdale and Melrose councillor Tom Miers, decided that a site visit was necessary before any decision could be made, and scheduled one for the coming weeks.

However, Moorbrook Textiles has now abandoned the process and has instead appealed straight to the Scottish Government’s planning and environmental appeals division.

The decision to grant the planning application is now in the hands of the Scottish Government’s reporters, who act on delegated power from Scottish ministers.

In the case of controversial or very large developments, however, Scottish ministers themselves can rule on appeals and applications.

Councillor Heather Anderson, who voiced strong objection to the plans at the council’s planning and building standards committee, commented: “As the Tweeddale West councillor who represented the petitioners at the committee, I am disappointed by this manoeuver by the developer.  

“They were present throughout the committee deliberations and having realised how seriously the planning committee members were taking the concerns of the petitioners and the community representatives, they obviously decided they stood a better chance of getting their proposal approved by a Reporter.   

“The case I made on behalf of the allotment holders emphasised the significance of allotments and the requirement for local authorities to provide and protect them.  

“Council policy states that any loss of green space can only be permitted when it is demonstrated that there is social, economic and community justification and any developer is required to provide an adequate and acceptable alternative space.  

“We argued there was no adequate, alternative, non-contaminated space on the site and that the development should be redesigned to work round the existing allotments, not relocate them to a smaller, less suitable and probably contaminated site.

“We also urged the committee to consider the rights of the community under the community empowerment act, and asked them to review the proposed reductions in developer contribution and affordable housing.”