New housing estate needs a shop, say councillors

Councillors this week demanded that the first phase of one the largest new housing developments ever proposed in the central Borders should have its own community shop, writes Andrew Keddie.

And if the company behind the scheme at Easter Langlee, the UK’s second largest housebuilder, Persimmon, cannot find someone to run the retail business, it will not be able to turn the property into a residential flat without the consent of Scottish Borders Council.

That condition was unanimously agreed this week by SBC’s planning committee as it gave the go-ahead for the first phase of 118 houses to the east of Galashiels.

The company has submitted a masterplan showing 450 houses on a huge site, stretching west to east from the Langshaw road to the Pavilion and Housebyre estates and south to north from the B6374 road to Melrose to the outskirts of the council’s large landfill site.

The first 118 houses will be in two fields lying closest to the Langshaw Road and the Coopersknowe housing estate.

The committee heard Persimmon had made several adjustments to house designs to address concerns expressed by councillors when a previous application went before couuncillors 2007. The company had also taken on board the views of the public, expressed when the masterplan went out to consultation.

“This is a vast improvement with what was originally envisaged,” said Councillor Nicholas Watson (Leaderdale and Melrose). “It will be much less suburban and more pedestrian friendly.”

Noting that the site was closer to Melrose town centre than the former post office in Galashiels, he said it was important that the estate had its own shop.

A recommendation from Carlos Clarke, the local planning officer urged councillors to approve the proposal and to rule that, if no-one was prepared to take on the shop, it should revert to residential use.

But the committee agreed that in those circumstances, Persimmon would have to return to the committee with a new planning application.

“The shop is fundamental to the social cohesion of a settlement which could end up being the size of Lauder,” said Mr Watson after Monday’s meeting.

“By making the marketing of the shop a condition of planning consent, we want to give the firm the best possible incentive to make it happen.”