Westruther church’s revised conversion bid fails to get councillors blessing

A revised bid to convert a former Berwickshire village church into a family home has failed to win the blessing of councillors after a ‘sliding doors’ addition generated concern.
Westruther Parish Church.Westruther Parish Church.
Westruther Parish Church.

Planning approval was previously granted by Scottish Borders Council for the change of Westruther Parish Church into a single dwelling.

But the applicant Graeme Wright then submitted a revised application which included a new opening in the wall to allow for the creation of sliding patio doors, in an attempt to allow more light into the property.

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This proposed design change also involved alterations to two of the existing windows in the southern elevation, lifting the sills heights of the windows to accommodate the new opening.

The revised application was refused on the grounds that “the scale and design of the proposed sliding doors to the south elevation of the building would have a detrimental impact upon its character and appearance”.

And when members of SBC’s Local Review Body met on Monday, April 15, refusal was upheld by six votes to three.

Mid-Berwickshire councillor Donald Moffat was supportive of the revised application.

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He said: “To me personally I can see why the applicants have done this. The fact that it is the main living area in the house and they are going to get some light into the room and be able to look into the garden, and there’s nowhere else in the building that they could actually do that.

“I don’t think they are being unrealistic in what they are asking for. As the development has gone on they have realised there is a problem with light and have tried to come to a solution.”

Committee chair Councillor Simon Mountford said: “The original application did actually propose what they’ve now done and the officers at the time said ‘no you can’t do that’ and I’m a bit unimpressed that they decided to do it anyway.”

Councillor Jane Cox, for Hawick & Hermitage, described the application as “totally against the character and appearance of the building”.

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East Berwickshire councillor Aileen Orr agreed, labelling the applicant’s actions as “despicable”, saying: “It looks like the windows have been cut in already. That is incredibly rude as we haven’t accepted that and I’m quite annoyed about that because it is such a beautiful building.

“It’s difficult because the work has already started and I think, frankly, that if you are buying a church like that light should be under consideration at the beginning of the project not at this point and to destroy very important parts of it before we have discussed it is quite despicable.”

The church was built in 1838 by John Smith but the building has been stripped of almost all of its ecclesiastical features, including its pews.

The church became vacant after it was closed by the Church of Scotland due to a declining congregation.