Peebles homes bid fails due to refusal to build second bridge over Tweed

Developers hoping to build a £23m housing estate on the outskirts of Peebles have had their application in principle dismissed after failing to build bridges with councillors.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 12:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 12:54 pm
Land to the east of Kittlegairy Avenue in Peebles was being eyed up to host 200 new homes.
Land to the east of Kittlegairy Avenue in Peebles was being eyed up to host 200 new homes.

Their proposals would have seen around 200 new houses constructed, a quarter of them affordable homes, east of the town’s Kittlegairy Avenue.

The joint applicants, Buckinghamshire-based building firm Taylor Wimpey and Edinburgh developer AWG Property, claimed the estate would help to tackle a housing shortfall and that its benefits would outweigh potential policy breaches.

Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee begged to differ at its meeting on Monday, however.

Principal planning officer Craig Miller told councillors the development, lined up for a 21-hectare site earmarked for mixed use rather than solely for housing, would constitute urban sprawl as well as going beyond the defined settlement boundary for Peebles in the authority’s 2016 local development plan.

That estate, first proposed in principle in April 2017, would add around 200 houses offering two to four bedrooms to the town’s 8,400 population, and that would put too much strain on the town’s Tweed Bridge and road network, according to officers.

Roads planning officer Derek Inglis also advised giving the plans the thumbs-down on the basis that the developers aren’t intending to meet a requirement to create a second crossing over the River Tweed.

“There are arguments on both sides over the capacity for the Tweed Bridge, but, as far as I am concerned, it’s 1,250 vehicles per hour, and this development would take us over that capacity,” Mr Inglis said.

“It’s not just about the capacity of the bridge and the mini-roundabout. At the moment, we have one road crossing between the north and the south side of the town, and that’s the bridge.

“Our design policy encourages strong street connectivity and we do not have that here, meaning all the traffic is funnelled over the bridge.

“That is why there is a requirement for a second crossing to spread the load away from the High Street, and in light of that crossing not being provided, I am unable to support this application.”

Councillors were also unhappy about the developers’ reluctance to provide a second bridge.

“I can understand why the developers want to have more houses in Peebles,” Tweeddale West councillor Eric Small said.

“It’s a lovely town within easy commuting distance to Edinburgh, but come peak times, it’s a nightmare.

“Traffic build-up can be horrendous, and without another river crossing, this is not going to work.”

Jedburgh councillor Scott Hamilton said: “I do wish to see the site developed in the future, but at this point in time there’s no way it can be approved without a second river crossing in place.

“That would lead to a more congested High Street, and that’s not going to be of benefit to anybody.”

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency was one of 30 objectors to the proposals, also including the town’s community council and civic society, both of whom raised concerns about congestion,

The joint applicants disputed the traffic flow figures cited by the council, though, and argued that the benefits of the development, including 50 affordable homes, should outweigh breaches of planning policies.

Colin Lavety, from the applicants’ agent, Barton Wilmore, told the meeting the plans would bring a £1.2m boost for the local economy, 60 permanent jobs and £225,000 a year in council tax.

“This application has undertaken extensive and ongoing discussions with planning officers,” he said.

“There is only one objection from their roads department, and all other planning matters have been suitable addressed.”

He considers the objections voiced to the plans to be unjustified , he said, and he argued that the homes would “create a softer edge to the settlement and fulfil that edge of the town”.

However, Kelso councillor Simon Mountford said: “The issue is whether this is any good reason or mitigating factors for which we should disregard existing policy.

“The applicant is disputing our methodology for determining our housing supply, but I am perfectly content with the council’s findings which say we have sufficient supply.”

After the meeting, a spokeswoman for the applicants said: “We are clearly disappointed by the outcome and are currently evaluating our options.”